Compelling historical fiction that's well-researched, and it's also fascinating to read about the woman believed to be the inspiration behind Gustav Klimt's famous painting The Lady in Gold. Stolen Beauty By Laurie Lico Albanese - #historical fiction, #reading, #books to read, #books

Stolen Beauty

By Laurie Lico Albanese


Critical Praise:

Albanese artfully weaves Adele’s story with Maria’s harrowing life under the Nazis, and reflections on marriage and fidelity. But it’s hard to read Stolen Beauty without seeing ugly echoes in today’s headlines, with the clarion call of 'America first' and immigrants singled out as 'the problem.' Seven decades after World War II, have we learned nothing?" – USA Today

"This sensual and mesmerizing novel brings to vivid life Gustav Klimt and his greatest muse and model, Adele Bloch-Bauer. For fans of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale and Paula McLain's Circling the Sun, Stolen Beauty is a must-read. I tore through the pages." – Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

“Albanese has written a gripping historical novel that revolves around the lives of two extraordinary women who live in extraordinary times… The well-paced stories of both women, told in alternating chapters, are presented in clear, crisp language, beautifully described settings, and credible dialogue that moves each woman’s story forward, compelling readers to keep the pages turning, as do the historical elements of the novel…With all the elements of a good novel—love, sex, tense relationships, events spiraling out of control, family dynamics, personal conflict as well as war—coupled with real people and true history, this accessible novel of strong women, self-discovery, evolving social mores, artistic challenges, and a rapidly changing world makes for satisfying reading, whether one’s interest is primarily women, history, art, or life in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities in the time of Freud and free love.” – New York Journal of Books
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*Discussion Questions



1. During Adele’s life, there is an ongoing debate about which is more essential, beauty in art, or truth in art. What do you believe the primary aim of art should be? Why? Are beauty and/or truth integral to artistic works? Why, or why not?

2. Do you think Adele loved Gustav Klimt, or just the lifestyle he represented? Discuss.

3. In retaliation to his critics, Klimt paints Adele as the heroic Jewish widow Judith. Do you think his response is effective? Why or why not? On page 78, Klimt claims, “There’s no solution in words. . . . The only answer is art.” What does he mean by this? Do you agree/disagree?

4. Throughout the book, sex and death are connected visually and in the characters’ minds. Find some passages that illustrate this connection. Why do you think this is a significant motif for Adele or Maria?

5. Both Maria and Adele must contend with the issue of faithfulness in marriage. What are the different messages the two stories provide on this topic? Which do you believe is more important, fidelity or freedom?

6. Another parallel in Maria and Adele’s marriages is the presence of double standards. How is each woman held to a different standard than her husband? What are the similarities and differences between the roles of women during these two generations? How do they compare to expectations for women today?

7. While reading, did you find yourself identifying more with Adele or with Maria? In what ways did you connect to them?

8. Discuss the role of national and religious identity in the book. What does it mean to Adele to be Jewish? What does it mean to her to be Viennese? How do these characteristics relate to each other? Does Adele’s relation to being Viennese or Jewish change for her over the course of the book?

9. In pages 214 to 216, Maria’s mother asks her if her children will be Jewish, and whether they will speak German, reflecting anxieties she holds about life in the Jewish diaspora. How does the book depict the impact of emigration on Maria’s family? In what ways do Maria’s relationships with Judaism and Vienna parallel or diverge from Adele’s?

10. Was there anything that surprised you about the book’s depiction of the Nazi annexation of Austria?

11. Maria consistently describes Ferdinand as devoted to his wife Adele, claiming “my uncle had never stopped loving her” (page 216). Where do you see the presence or absence of this adoration in the chapters from Adele’s perspective?

12. Maria admires her aunt Adele and strives to live up to her example. Are there figures in your family or life whom you feel driven to emulate, or who you fear you fall short of?

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)


Book Summary
From the dawn of the twentieth century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.

In the dazzling glitter of 1900 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer—young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish—meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.

Nearly forty years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria—and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family—and their history—alive.

Will Maria and her family escape the grip of Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for?

Impeccably researched and a “must-read for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun” (Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author), Stolen Beauty intertwines the tales of two remarkable women across more than a hundred years. It juxtaposes passion and discovery against hatred and despair, and shines a light on our ability to love, to destroy, and above all, to endure.
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