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A captivating imagined tale of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of The Scarlet Letter, mining the legacy of the Salem witch trials


Glasgow, 1829: Isobel, a young seamstress, and her husband Edward set sail for New England, in flight from his mounting debts and addictions. But, arriving in Salem, Massachusetts, Edward soon takes off again, and Isobel finds herself penniless and alone.

Then she meets Nathaniel, a fledgling writer, and the two are instantly drawn to each other: he is haunted by his ancestors, who sent innocent women to the gallows during the Salem witch trials – while she is an unusually gifted needleworker, troubled by her own strange talents. Nathaniel and Isobel grow ever closer. Together, they are dark storyteller and muse; enchanter and enchanted. But which is which?



'Like the greatest historical fiction,
Hester manages to make you believe utterly’
GILLIAN FLYNN, #1 New York Times-bestselling author

'Full of lush and colourful prose… 
Hester proves that a woman will do whatever she must to prosper’
SARAH PENNER, author of The Lost Apothecary

'In dreamlike yet vivid prose, Albanese weaves a story about nineteenth-century Salem, a place with a dark history where secrets still abound’
CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE, author of The Exiles

'A masterpiece. Rich in detail and hauntingly lyrical… enthralling, ambitious, and a total knock-out'
FIONA DAVIS, author of The Magnolia Palace

Genre: Historical

Praise for this book

"The diverse women at the heart of The Crucible, the Salem witch trials, and The Scarlet Letter at last get their say-in full-throated technicolor. A luminous blend of fiction and truth, with an extraordinarily gifted heroine at its center, Hester weaves together a spellbinding tapestry of Salem history as it has never been told before." - Afia Atakora

"This page-turning and poignant novel beautifully imagines the untold life story of the woman who went down in literary history wearing a scarlet letter. Albanese lets the reader accompany her through an early life of secret powers and difficult attachments on her way to becoming a strong and independent woman." - Alice Elliott Dark

"Albanese has written a masterpiece that should be required reading alongside Hawthorne's classic tale of adultery. Rich in detail and hauntingly lyrical, she examines the myriad ways that extraordinary women are judged harshly and forced to downplay their gifts in order to conform to society's demands. Enthralling, ambitious, and a total knock-out." - Fiona Davis

"A rich tapestry of a novel. In dreamlike yet vivid prose, Albanese weaves a story about 19th century Salem, a place with a dark history where secrets still abound, and conjures the life of Hawthorne's muse, a woman whose skill and imagination are both the key to her survival and the source of others' mistrust and envy. Vivid, complex, and intricately detailed." - Christina Baker Kline

"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

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