Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Stella Bain by Antia Shreve
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 house guest. 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.
The story begins in 1916 in a makeshift hospital on a French battlefield. Stella wakes up confused and injured trying to remember who she is. She is wearing the uniform of a nurse's aid but being miles away from the field hospital where she worked no one knows her. Thinking her name is Stella Bain and she is told she sounds American she still can't remember why she is in France until she overhears the name Admiralty and London and something from within her tells her she must go there.
In London she is found by Lily and she takes her into her house to be seen by her doctor husband, August, who believes Stella is suffering from shell shock, radical thinking at that time that it could apply to women as well as men.
I enjoyed the part of the story which was set in France. The descriptions of the battlefields and hospitals and what was suffered for many made it so real. I was less hooked on the London part of the book when Stella was trying to discover why she felt compelled to visit the Admiralty.
I found her reasons for leaving America and doing something as drastic as going to the war in France a bit thin considering what she was leaving behind. There was also a court case that went on for too long. I don't want to tell you what Stella left behind in America as I think it's better to be surprised, there's plenty of spoilers on Amazon if you want to know.
The friendship that blossoms between Stella, Lily and August is very proper given the constraints of the time but it is also very endearing.
A good read but enjoyed the part in France better.
Amazon UK for kindle (for some reason the kindle version is called The Lives of Stella Bain)
Thanks to Net Galley for a download of this book in return for an honest review.