Title: The Night Portrait
Author: Laura Morelli
Published on: 25 September 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Munich, 1939 – End of WW2
Edith Becker, an art conservator, is forced to find the da Vinci masterpiece – The Lady with an Ermine – and return it to Hans Frank, The Butcher of Poland. Apart from The Lady with an Ermine, a lot of other artifacts once owned by the Polish Jews are now stolen by the Nazis. Edith secretly wishes the paintings are returned to the rightful owners once the war is over.
Meanwhile, Dominic, a young American soldier is assigned to find the stolen masterpieces. He’s on the quest to find The Lady with an Ermine. The journey in finding the missing painting takes him to places where destruction and death are beyond anyone’s imagination (concentration camps).
Young Cecilia Gallerani is taken in as the Duke’s mistress. She believes the Duke will marry her at some point of time. The mistress soon becomes a subject of da Vinci’s most ambitious project – a portrait which years later will be known as The Lady with an Ermine. Cecilia’s journey is marred with disappointments and deceit. Will she finally receive what she deserves – fame and a name (as Duchess of Milan?). Only time will tell.
Once in a while, we readers come across a book that touches our heart. The Night Portrait is a mesmerizing story of two women, separated by 500 years, with one painting that stands at the center of their quests for their own destinies.
The story alternates between four characters. Two from 1490s – da Vinci and Cecilia, and the other two from 1940s – Edith and Dominic. The characters have their share of ups and downs but there is a common thread that connects them all – a painting.
The author has, no doubt, put in a lot of hard work and research into writing this book. From deceit, love and fear for life, the characters go through a lot of emotional turmoil. Coming to the WW2 part of the story, we have the ruthless Nazi officers and their lust for power – stealing paintings for their own benefit to torturing innocent Jews and mercilessly killing those who stood against the Nazi soldiers. No matter how many times we have heard or read of the atrocities committed at the concentration camps, reading/hearing it again doesn’t less the emotional pain.
I cannot even begin to imagine what the Jews must have gone through or what the Allied soldiers must have gone through to see dead bodies strewn on the streets or packed in boxcars and left to rot.
Laura Morelli is an excellent storyteller. This is the first book I have read and I cannot wait to catch up with the rest of her books. I loved every bit of this book, be it the research and stating the historical facts as is, or the character development and the ending – simply perfect. If you love Historical Fiction, you must read Laura Morelli’s The Night Portrait.
Many thanks to One More Chapter and NetGalley for the ARC. This is my honest and unbiased opinion.