Stella Bain. Finished 6-13-19, 3.5/5 stars, historical fiction, pub. 2013
Unabridged audio read by Hope Davis. 7 hours
An epic story, set against the backdrop of World War I, from bestselling author Anita Shreve. When an American woman, Stella Bain, is found suffering from severe shell shock in an exclusive garden in London, surgeon August Bridge and his wife selflessly agree to take her in. A gesture of goodwill turns into something more as Bridge quickly develops a clinical interest in his houseguest. Stella had been working as a nurse’s aide near the front, but she can’t remember anything prior to four months earlier when she was found wounded on a French battlefield. In a narrative that takes us from London to America and back again, Shreve has created an engrossing and wrenching tale about love and the meaning of memory, set against the haunting backdrop of a war that destroyed an entire generation. from Goodreads
After I finish a book I might write a few thoughts on a piece of scrap paper and slide it in the book until I share my thoughts here, but in between those two I’ll probably take a gander at Goodreads to see if something jumps out as something I forgot. Well, let me save some of you the trouble and tell you straight up that this is a prequel of sorts. The fact that I didn’t know this makes me more than a little miffed. So, Shreve’s earlier book was written from the perspective of Stella Bain’s husband about their marriage. I wish I had read that one first I think, but it may not stop me from picking it up now, even knowing how abhorrent he is.
So, with that fair warning out of the way, let’s get to Stella. When we first meet her she has no idea who she is, but at some point early on she remembers that she drove an ambulance in the War (WWI). The doctor and wife who take her in help her to recover enough memories to know she must go to the military headquarters in London. Here she remembers everything and we’re not even halfway through the book.
I’m not sure how much more to tell you because I don’t want to spoil anything, but will say that I grew to respect ‘Stella’ but I never truly got a handle on who she was. Some of her choices were hard to accept. I did learn a lot about how shell shock (PTSD) was misunderstood and even feared during the time and I thought that was a strong part of the book. I thought it was a good book, but probably would have liked it more if I’d read All He Ever Wanted first.