The lives of Stella Bain by Anita Shreve for my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2014
This is the first book I have read by this author and although I have seen copies of her books in the library and in bookshops I have neither borrowed nor bought one until now. I chose this book at the library because it was on the “New Books” shelf and I liked the sound of the summary.
From the book cover:
Hauled in a cart to a field hospital in northern France in March 1916, an American woman wakes from unconsciousness to the smell of gas gangrene, the sounds of men in pain, and an almost complete loss of memory: she knows only that she can drive an ambulance, she can draw, and her name is Stella Bain.
A stateless woman in a lawless country, Stella embarks on a journey to reconstruct her life. Suffering an agonising and inexplicable array of symptoms, she finds her way to London. There Dr August Bridge, a cranial surgeon turned psychologist, is drawn to tracking her amnesia to its source. What brutality was she fleeing when she left the tranquil seclusion of a New England college campus to serve on the Front; for what crime did she need to atone – and whom did she leave behind.
My initial impressions of this book were that I didn’t like the style of writing but realised as I moved into the story that the style suited the tale being told. I am not someone who generally enjoys war stories but this was more a mystery and a love story.
The story takes place in the late 19th Century and the early part of the 20th Century. Stella has post traumatic stress disorder and has some difficulty in finding someone able to help her cope. The question of finding a balance between personal happiness and the role of wife and mother is addressed in this novel.
It was a very quick read and I would happily recommend it.
You can find reviews of the book here.
2 Comments Add yours
I haven’t read anything by her but, like you, I’ve seen her books on shelves. Good for you continuing with it even though the style didn’t appeal to you. In those circumstances it can be very tempting to quit and go for something else, but you have a sense of achievement when you battle on and end up enjoying it. I suppose the story has to be compelling enough to make you want to read on, despite any objections you might have about the writing.
You’re quite right. It was a compelling story.