Author:Laurie Lico Albanese
Pub. Date: October 4th 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction/Feminist Retelling
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮
╰☆☆ “𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐀 𝐢𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐝,” 𝐈 𝐬𝐚𝐲. “𝐑𝐞𝐝 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐥𝐞?” 𝐇𝐞 𝐬𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐛𝐛𝐥𝐞𝐬 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤. “𝐍𝐨,” 𝐈 𝐬𝐚𝐲. “𝐀 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐞𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫.” ☆☆╮
The last book I read in October was less of a retelling and more of an origin story for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. A slow paced Historical Fiction set in Salem right after the Salem Witch Trials, this one is more character driven and atmospheric. We follow Isobel Gamble, a young seamstress who leaves Scotland due to her husband Edward succumbing to Opium. Edward is an Apothecary who has indebted them to the point of disgrace so much so that setting sail for Salem could be their only hope of rebuilding. Shortly after arriving in Salem, Edward joins another sailing ship and leaves Isobel without any money to fend for herself. With her needle & stitch work, Isobel begins to grow a customer base. Her stitch work is different and instantly garners the attention of all the women in town and abroad. Different in Salem ALWAYS spells trouble. Different gets you accused of witchcraft. Different can get you hung for your sins. Isobel quickly learns that being a woman makes you susceptible to accusations by the townsfolk, especially a woman whose husband trails a bad reputation and has just left her alone. Not all townsfolk are eager to ostracize her, Isobel finds good people who impart wise advice. Isobel inadvertently discovers the very beginnings of the Underground Railroad and becomes an ally when things hit close to home.
This was a hybrid read for me once I found out that the audiobook narrator really had given a stellar performance. I found the audiobook highly enjoyable, our main character has a brogue accent to represent her Scottish origins. This in and of itself plays an important role in the story, Isobel is met with prejudice as soon as she arrives in Salem due to her accent. She’s a woman with a lot of secrets and she’s come to live in a place where any personality quirks can get you accused of witchcraft. Isobel happens to hear and read words in colors, a secret passed on down the line of women in her family. During the time this book is set in the 1800’s, there wasn’t a name for what Isobel and her family could do. The author does give some info at the beginning of the story on Synesthesia, a blending of the senses or better described as experiencing one of your senses through another. I’d recommend Hester to anyone who has read The Scarlet Letter or readers who enjoy Historical Fiction set in Salem during the 1800’s. Character driven and atmospheric, this is one Feminist “re-telling” perfect for this time of year!
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