The Stolen Lady: A Novel of World War II and the Mona Lisa

Written by Laura Morelli
Review by Franca Pelaccia

The Stolen Lady has dual timelines and three points of view. In 1939 France, Anne Giuchard, a young typist at the Louvre, is asked to join a perilous mission. She and other staff must move the priceless artwork and treasures, including the Mona Lisa, to the Castle of Chambord and away from the advancing Nazis. But as the Nazis keep drawing closer, she and the others are forced to keep moving and hiding them. The second timeline is Florence of 1479. Bellina Sardi is servant to Lisa Gherardini or “Mona Lisa,” the young wife of a wealthy silk merchant. Bellina is caught up in the preaching of Girolamo Savonarola, who urges the poor to revolt against the rich and burn their belongings. In this timeline is the viewpoint of Leonardo da Vinci, who moves from one city to another, focusing on his engineering works and starting masterpieces but having difficulties finishing them.

The Stolen Lady provides fascinating insight into the history of the Mona Lisa. The Florence timeline is about the woman behind the enigmatic expression, the artist, and the influence of politics and the social climate on the world of art. The politics and times, however, are in the background, brewing and creating noise but never overpowering the characterizations or story. The WWII timeline focuses on the constant upheaval and protection of the Louvre’s treasures. In both timelines, Bellina and Anne are forced to protect the Mona Lisa while growing as people. Bellina comes into her own, breaking away from the pressure of the political and religious restrictions, while Anne becomes strong enough to use a gun to protect both the artwork and her colleagues. A thoroughly enjoyable read!