Stella Bain

November 12, 2013

Stella Bain
By: Anita Shreve
199 Pages

A woman wakes up in a hospital, in France. She has no idea how she got there, or who she is. This is her story.

Anita Shreve has a distinct way of telling a story. She doesn't always go for the obvious angle, but she tells a compelling story anyway. Once again, she pulls you into a story that you can't tear yourself away from. You don't care that you get the story out of order. It actually adds to the suspense that you don't.

1916 isn't a good year in France. War has devastated the lives of countless people. Among the wounded and injured, a woman is left on a hospital porch. She's unconscious and in a cart. 3 days later, she awakes, but has no clue who she is. Nor does she have any idea how she got there. In fact, her entire life is blank. At some point the name Stella Bain comes to her. That is what she becomes known as.

After several months of recovery, she begins to help out as a nurse's assistant. Not knowing why, she tells them she can drive an ambulance- and does. However, a bizarre draw to the Admiralty pulls at her. She finally begins her journey when she has some leave. Before getting there, an exhausted Stella leaves her train, thinking she could get there faster on foot. She takes a minute to rest at a fence when Lily Bridge approaches her. Seeing the woman is exhausted, she invites her in. 

Lily and her doctor husband, August, care for the sick Stella. August is a cranial surgeon and does what he can to help Stella get her memory back. They begin an amateur therapy. Pictures of her past come to her as she draws them out. (A talent that helped her earn money while being a nurse's aid.) Still, she remains convinced that the secret to her past lies within the Admiralty. Several attempts yield no entrance. Finally, August begins to go with her. On trip number 5, everything changes when Stella hears 1 word: Etna.

Stella Bain remembers who she is. Etna has a husband and 2 children back in America. She fled her home after a devastating secret comes to light. She has since been trying to correct a horrible wrong done to an innocent man. While she was able to fix some things, not everything is as easy. When Etna returns, she wants her children with her again. It's a long process ahead of her. She's forced to face her past- including the husband she fled from.

I enjoyed this book. It kept me wanting to read more. I loved how Anita Shreve told the story. She told a story of rarity involving a woman's role in war in 1916. This wasn't your average war-time novel from a woman's point of view. She masterly unraveled a groundbreaking story. Definitely another great story from a great writer. While I don't agree with the pricing, both in hardcover and ebook, I do agree the story is one to be read.


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