Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

It is 1916, and a woman awakens, wounded, in a field hospital in northern France. She wears the uniform of a British nurse’s aide but has an American accent. With no memory of her past or what brought her to this distant war, she knows only that she can drive an ambulance, and that her name is Stella Bain.

261 pages

This story explores the effects of shell shock on a women during World War I. Its a good historical novel. Strong characters, excellent depictions of World War I army hospitals and field rescues of the injured. Of course a love story winding through the tale. If your familiar with Anita Shreve your know this is a well written, engaging tale. I read it in 2 days. I love her books, but this is probably my least favorite of them.

It is written in third person present tense, fairly odd way of going at it. Maybe she did this as Stella was so removed from who she was as her memory was gone, but I didn’t care for the format. It made the story choppy and stilted. It didn’t flow like her books usually do. There seemed to be a lot of repetition of events. I still enjoyed the book, but I’m glad I checked it out of the library rather than purchased it.

One other thing I didn’t care for was that Stella was written as a strong, courageous, tenacious woman throughout the story. Its what makes you like her and root for her, but on the other hand… If she were these things, for me, it makes it a little bit of a leap that what happened to her to start this journey rolling would have had that effect on her to begin with. Hope that makes sense to you. I don’t want to give anything away here, I want the story to unfold for you as you read it. And I do think you should read it. I think this is one of those books that will become dearer to me as the days go by after I’ve finished it.

At their next meeting, a week later, Stella announces to Dr. Bridge that she has been drawing. “I purchased paper and a pencil on the afternoon after I left your house. I meant to write a not to you and Lily, but when I returned here, I began to draw instead. I used to sketch in France.”
“I wondered what was in that packet,” he says.
Unwanted heat rises to her face. “I was up hours last night.”
Dr. Bridge opens his mouth to speak, but Stella cuts him off.
“I know, I know, I need rest. But I did sleep late this morning.”
“May I see what you have?”
‘The drawings are…I’m not sure how to phrase it…somewhat sinister, and this bothers me. I thought maybe you could help me with them.”
Stella walks the packet over to Dr. Bridge and then returns to her spot on the divan. She glances everywhere but at him.
“I’m speechless,” he says after he has studied the three drawings. “Do you have any idea, any idea at all, how good these are? They amaze me. You must –you must– have been an artist in your previous life.”
Stella flushes with pleasure at his response, but then shakes her head to indicate that she is as perplexed ashe.
‘May we discuss theses?” he asks.

I’d be very interested in hearing what you think of this book and the style it is written in!

Peggy Ann


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