Review #330

What a beautiful cover.

So Isobel is a (possible) witch because she sees colors associated with letters or peoples voices. Just before her mom dies, she warns Isobel never to tell anyone about her gift, because others will hunt her out of fear for being different. This is such an awesome start.

Yet I hate that the same theme comes up as always when Pa says, “Your best hope is to marry well and you’ll never have to work again.” Ugh. Can we just show strong heroines without them having males control them. It’s exhausting.

Years pass and she’s married at age 18 to a widower with a thriving business. When his prospects all fall apart, her safe future crumbles quickly.

I enjoy stories revolving around Salem. But because her great grandma had the same name as the heroine in the flashbacks, sometimes it was confusing of who was who.

The writing is very detailed so those who enjoy slower prose would like this more than me. The fact that she could see and feel those colors differently was the vibrant part of the story, the rest fell flat. Though I did love her needlework passion.

I enjoy the flashbacks to her ancestor, but I need the pace to pick up overall. There’s a lot of telling so I feel removed from the characters and their feelings through these obstacles.

Once they were in America, things didn’t really pick up so this was a DNF for me. But here’s the blurb if you’re intrigued:
Isobel Gamble is a young seamstress carrying generations of secrets when she sets sail from Scotland in the early 1800s with her husband, Edward. An apothecary who has fallen under the spell of opium, his pile of debts have forced them to flee Glasgow for a fresh start in the New World. But only days after they’ve arrived in Salem, Edward abruptly joins a departing ship as a medic––leaving Isobel penniless and alone in a strange country, forced to make her way by any means possible.

When she meets a young Nathaniel Hawthorne, the two are instantly drawn to each other: he is a man haunted by his ancestors, who sent innocent women to the gallows––while she is an unusually gifted needleworker, troubled by her own strange talents. As the weeks pass and Edward’s safe return grows increasingly unlikely, Nathaniel and Isobel grow closer and closer. Together, they are a muse and a dark storyteller; the enchanter and the enchanted. But which is which?

In this sensuous and hypnotizing tale, a young immigrant woman grapples with our country’s complicated past, and learns that America’s ideas of freedom and liberty often fall short of their promise. Interwoven with Isobel and Nathaniel’s story is a vivid interrogation of who gets to be a “real” American in the first half of the 19th century, a depiction of the early days of the Underground Railroad in New England, and atmospheric interstitials that capture the long history of “unusual” women being accused of witchcraft. Meticulously researched yet evocatively imagined, Laurie Lico Albanese’s Hester is a timeless tale of art, ambition, and desire that examines the roots of female creative power and the men who try to shut it down.

Published by CassieSwindon

Fiction author

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