‘The Lives of Stella Bain’ by Anita Shreve

The Lives of Stella BainstarstarstarA woman wakes up in a gangrenous WW1 field hospital with no memory of who she is or how she got there. There is shrapnel in her feet and she is wearing a British medical uniform, but her accent is American. She remembers driving an ambulance for the war effort, she knows she can draw, and she thinks her name is Stella Bain. As Stella embarks on a journey to figure out her present, she encounters her past as well as her future. Issues of PTSD and how the human spirit can rally in the face of trauma is central to the novel. This is the weakest of the novels I have read by her. I found it lacking in her usual ability to create atmosphere. Some of the story developments seemed contrived and the ending was all too predictable.

Anita Shreve (one of those authors whose name is larger on the cover of the book than the title) has written almost 20 novels. I’ve read almost a dozen of them including Light on Snow. She’s a good storyteller and her novels are usually deliciously dark with many of the same themes running through all of them. Her website is very helpful in that regard, with information nicely given about characters and themes in case you didn’t catch something. (Anita Shreve Website)

  • A moment in life that can change everything.
  • An unconventional woman who finds a reserve of previously untapped strength.
  • Loss and grief, being pushed to the edge.
  • A description of a home becoming a reflection of the characters.
  • Water as both dangerous and comforting.

The Shreve books I’ve enjoyed the most are The Pilot’s Wife, The Weight of Water, and Fortune’s Rocks. This one is actually a loose sequel to All He Ever Wanted, which I have not read but might pick up now as a flashback.

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