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Hester  By  cover art

Hester

By: Laurie Lico Albanese
Narrated by: Saskia Maarleveld
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Publisher's Summary

"This well-written, well-researched, and masterfully performed novel provides satisfying listening."- AudioFile Magazine (Earphones Award Winner)

A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.


Who is the real Hester Prynne?

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 Edinburgh 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.

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press.

©2022 Laurie Lico Albanese (P)2022 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"In Hester, Albanese has masterminded a thoroughly immersive drama and a memorable, spirited heroine for the ages. Albanese's elegant writing captures the dynamic, sensual energy between Isobel and Nat in breathtaking detail. Isobel's appeal crosses cultural and generational borders to embody a timeless existential quest for the freedom to love and live as one pleases."–Shelf Awareness

"A standout historical… Even those unfamiliar with the classic will be hooked by this account of a capable woman standing up to the sexist and racial prejudices of her time."–Publishers Weekly

"Hester is a vividly reimagined portrayal of the tragic heroine in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Full of lush and colorful prose, this is a tale of one woman's determination and self-reliance amid the 'new world' of 19th-century Salem, which teems with festering secrets and alluring prospects. A message of resilience, Hester proves that a woman will do whatever she must to prosper, even when she is left with nothing but courage—and a few secrets of her own."–Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary

Featured Article: Best of the Year—The 15 Best Fiction Listens of 2022


To say it’s a challenge to select the top fiction listens of the year (and this year especially!) is an understatement. But as hard as it is, it’s an even greater honor for our team to be able to listen deeply to so many amazing stories and then highlight the best of the best to you. Fiction is a big category—one that includes everything from epic family sagas to clever short stories, from historical fiction to near-future speculative works.

What listeners say about Hester

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Exquisite

Exquisitely written, perfectly narrated, with rich hues of emotion, imagery and imagination, I highly recommend this book.

8 people found this helpful

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

By accident I stumbled upon this book & I am so very glad that I did!!!

Whether you're a reader or an audiobook listener, you have got to add Hester to your list!

Amazing!

4 people found this helpful

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Excellent!!

It's been a while since I've had a book that I couldn't put down. The story is of a young girl who's fate is determined by society rules during the 1800's. While life beats her down she fights back So glad I spent the credit.

3 people found this helpful

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captivating

Couldn't put it down. love these books that tell a different interpretation on a historical figure.

3 people found this helpful

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Bravo!

For those who loved The Scarlet Letter, this will truly satisfy! Very very well done!

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Could not stop listening

Hester is an amazing read/listen. I loved listening to the Scottish brogue which I certainly could not have imagined if I had simple read the story. I was captured by the incredible details the author put into each and every chapter. Isobel is a character you cheer for. I read The Scarlet Letter many moons ago as a high school student, and I did love the story and that made me want to read Hester to see what connection there would be. It kept me listening and loving every minute. You will not be disappointed with this book!! Enjoy

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Brilliant

This book has magic in it, hidden in plain sight. I loved it. It spoke to me on many levels. It is an important story that has great relevance to today; the ghosts of our past being so close, haunting us even today. This is an inspired, brilliant book.

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  • Jz
  • 11-29-22

Enjoyed this audio book

I enjoy historical fiction and this book had it all. The reader did an excellent job. Story kept me from putting it down. I recommend if you enjoy history, literature, romance and needle work.

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Incredible

Beautiful narration, breathtaking story. Brings new light to a classic and it’s author, but more so it’s a lovely and magical new story on its own.

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Ambitious but Flawed

As a huge fan of The Scarlet Letter, I so wanted to love this novel, but the plot felt a bit flat to me. The author obviously did her research on Hawthorne’s works, but at times the novel tries a bit too hard to shoehorn Easter eggs throughout. This is a good story, well narrated, but I would have enjoyed far more an actual story from Hester Prynne’s point of view. I did enjoy the flashbacks to the main characters’ ancestor’s, though, and wish the author had spent more time in those stories.