The Lioness of Boston

David R. Godine. Apr. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9781567927405. $28.95. F
In her sophomore adult novel (following Liner Notes), YA novelist (The Half-Life of Planets) and poet Franklin (Tell Me How You Got Here) tells the life story of Isabella Stewart Gardner, from her marriage in 1861 to Jack Gardner, a member of Boston’s “High Society,” through her death in 1924. Isabella (or Belle) was an heiress from New York whose father bequeathed her a fortune in 1891 that enabled her to build a house that became a museum and to purchase art for it. In the novel, her struggle to find a place in Boston society is hampered by her outspokenness and interest in subjects generally reserved for men. After the death of her son, Belle falls into a deep depression that inspires Jack to take her to Europe. The trip reawakens her to life, and she begins her exquisite collections, first of rare books and then fine art, especially paintings. She befriends many artists and intellectuals and travels abroad frequently; her growing collections soon necessitate the building of a new larger home, which would become the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, an idiosyncratic reflection of the collector’s tastes and life.

CORRECTION: This review originally called the book Franklin’s adult debut, but it is actually her second adult novel, following Liner Notes and the short story collection The Girls’ AlmanacLJ regrets the error.

VERDICT Franklin’s lyrical, erudite style befits Belle and grabs readers’ attention. Pairs well with Ulrich Boser’s The Gardner Heist, a nonfiction title about Gardner’s fabulous collection and the famous unsolved robbery at the museum in 1990.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing