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The Stolen Lady: A Novel of WWII and the Mona Lisa by Laura Morelli: A Book Review

The Stolen Lady: A Novel of WWII and the Mona Lisa
Author: Laura Morelli
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Release: 2021
Pages: 477
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: From the acclaimed author of The Night Portrait comes a stunning historical novel about two women, separated by five hundred years, who each hide Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa—with unintended consequences.


     France, 1939

      At the dawn of World War II, Anne Guichard, a young archivist employed at the Louvre, arrives home to find her brother missing. While she works to discover his whereabouts, refugees begin flooding into Paris and German artillery fire rattles the city. Once they reach the city, the Nazis will stop at nothing to get their hands on the Louvre’s art collection. Anne is quickly sent to the Castle of Chambord, where the Louvre’s most precious artworks—including the Mona Lisa—are being transferred to ensure their safety. With the Germans hard on their heels, Anne frantically moves the Mona Lisa and other treasures again and again in an elaborate game of hide and seek. As the threat to the masterpieces and her life grows closer, Anne also begins to learn the truth about her brother and the role he plays in this dangerous game.

      Florence, 1479

House servant Bellina Sardi’s future seems fixed when she accompanies her newly married mistress, Lisa Gherardini, to her home across the Arno. Lisa’s husband, a prosperous silk merchant, is aligned with the powerful Medici, his home filled with luxuries and treasures. But soon, Bellina finds herself bewitched by a charismatic monk who has urged Florentines to rise up against the Medici and to empty their homes of the riches and jewels her new employer prizes. When Master Leonardo da Vinci is commissioned to paint a portrait of Lisa, Bellina finds herself tasked with hiding an impossible secret.

     When art and war collide, Leonardo da Vinci, his beautiful subject Lisa, and the portrait find themselves in the crosshairs of history. 

      My Review: The Stolen Lady is a historical novel about the portrait of the Mona Lisa. Bellina is a house servant to Lisa Gherardini, who is the model for the portrait of the Mona Lisa. Leonardo Da Vinci is the artist of the portrait. Anne is an archivist at the Louvre who is tasked with protecting the portrait of Mona Lisa during WWII. This novel is about how the portrait was created and later how it was kept out of the Nazis’ hands. 

       There are three main narrators in this novel. They are Anne, Bellina, and Leonardo. I really could not connect with any of the characters. Anne’s story was the most exciting of the novel because of how she protected the Mona Lisa from the enemy. However, I found her character to be stereotypical and bland. She is not given much development. She has no flaws. I did at times find her courageous and intelligent. However, I wished there was more development. Bellina is an unnecessary character. She is largely overshadowed by her mistress, who I thought was more interesting. I often wondered why Lisa Gherardini was not the narrator of this story. Leonardo Da Vinci was the most interesting character, but his storyline was very undeveloped and did little to enhance the plot.

     Overall, this novel did not seem to know what it wanted to be. There were three different storylines all molded into one novel. I honestly thought this should have been three separate novels rather than one. Maybe because there was too much going on in this novel, the storylines and characters were not developed. There was no cohesive storyline. Everything seemed disjointed and jumbled together. It would have been better to have focused solely on one timeline and character. The story also seemed to be overly long and drawn out. It could have been shortened. Nevertheless, The Stolen Lady is very well-researched. I recommend this for art history lovers. However, for fans of the Mona Lisa, there are better books out there. For a nonfiction novel that discusses the history of Mona Lisa, I recommend Mona Lisa: A Discovered Life. For historical novels about the Mona Lisa, I recommend I, Mona Lisa by Natasha Solomons, I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis, and The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli. Therefore, The Stolen Lady is a very forgettable novel, and there are more superior versions about this painting already written.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


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