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The Lives of Stella Bain Hardcover – 6 Mar 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (6 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408702967
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408702963
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 319,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit, this tale is utterly unforgettable (Lady)

Atonement with just the tiniest dash of Downton Abbey. This is a First World War story with a difference . . . a fantastic read (Red)

Gripping and moving (Sunday Times)

Fascinating (Daily Mail)

Captivating (Bella)

Book Description

From bestselling author Anita Shreve: an epic story, set against the backdrop of World War I, of a woman searching for the secret of her identity

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 100 REVIEWER on 13 Nov. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Marne, France, 1915; a woman wakes in a military hospital tent suffering from amnesia after being unconscious for days. She does not know why she is there; she does not even know who she is - but gradually the name Stella Bain floats into her thoughts. After a short time, we learn that Stella is an American and in the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment), she has been working as a nurse's aide and, when necessary, driving an ambulance; we also learn that she has witnessed horrific injuries inflicted on soldiers and she has learnt to: "Always look a man in the eye, no matter how terrible the wound." But Stella still cannot remember anything about her past life and why she came to France. When she overhears someone mentioning the Admiralty in London, she has the intense feeling that she must go to Admiralty House, where she will be able to find out who she really is. Arriving in London, exhausted and unwell, Stella is taken under the wing of Lily Bridge and her husband, August, a cranial surgeon who has an interest in psychiatry and the work of Sigmund Freud. Deciding that Stella's loss of memory is the result of shock, August is keen to treat her as one of his patients and to encourage her to talk as much as possible as, according to Dr Freud, talking is the purest form of analysis. Whilst treating Stella, August discovers that she is a talented artist and he encourages her to draw pictures for the things that she cannot talk about. However, it is not until August takes Stella to Admiralty House and she comes across someone who recognises her, that Stella discovers she is not Stella Bain at all, but Etna Bliss, and that she has a husband and children in America.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By valerie d poe on 15 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Obviously written to coincide with the WW1 centenary, this book lacked the panache of the other Anita Shreve novels. The plot, manipulated to fit within the framework of a bloody and horrific war and to suit an American audience, came out feeling contrived with an ending which was obvious half way through the novel. Although an enjoyable read I would place it at the bottom of the list of the other books I have read by this author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gill-EJ on 28 Oct. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Stella Bain/Etna Bliss is the remarkable heroine of this novel. Her marriage is flawed and unhappy, and she leaves America and her children to escape. Dealing with the war wounded in France causes her to lose her memory and she arrives in London not knowing who she is. A poignant tale of love lost and refound, and of the ability to rise above disaster and find love again. A book I would happily recommend.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Julia Flyte TOP 50 REVIEWER on 29 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover
An American woman wakes up in a hospital in wartorn France, 1916. She has been unconscious for three days and has no recollection of how she came to be there. She believes her name might be Stella Bain but otherwise she can remember next to nothing. In a quest to unravel her identity she travels to England, where she befriends a doctor and his wife. The doctor has an interest in the fledging field of psychiatry and spends a considerable amount of time with her helping her to piece together what scattered memories she has. As things start to fall into place, she realises that she has left unfinished business behind in the US.

This is a frustrating book to read, sluggish in pace and written in the present tense. Stella's actions and motivations may be true to her time, but I found them nonsensical and I never warmed to her. Essentially - without giving much away - she reacted in a very self-centered way to a situation and then tried to blame everyone else for her predicament. While there were parts of the book in which I got quite caught up, I never felt like any of the characters were real people, and nor did I care a jot about any of them.

An interesting book but ultimately quite forgettable. There are books like My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You which cover similar territory but are far more absorbing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback
A woman wakes in a French field hospital, at the height of World War I. She can remember nothing about her past other than a name that might not even be hers, 'Stella Bain'. However, in all other ways she seems to be able to function (she can read, draw, has remembered all her nursing skills from earlier work in France and can even drive an ambulance) and so she is kept on helping out at the hospital - until she has a sudden conviction that she needs to travel to London, where she will find the key to her identity at the Admiralty. She duly manages to get to London where - very fortunately! - she meets August Bridges, a doctor specialising in cranial surgery. Dr Bridges takes Stella into his home and determines to help her recover her memories, and find out why (when she was seemingly unwounded) she suffered such terrible and almost complete amnesia. Over the next months the two become close friends - but it is when Stella visits the Admiralty that she does (as predicted) meet someone who helps her to - completely - recover her past. At this point it turns out that Stella is not Stella at all, but a character in one of Shreve's earlier historical novels, who mysteriously disappeared (I thought that Shreve had in fact killed her off, but may be suffering false memory syndrome). Armed with her true identity, 'Stella' now realises she must return to America to confront her past...

Shreve is an extremely accomplished writer, and any novel by her is always a pleasure to read. This novel was full of interesting ideas - about World War I, shell shock, mental illness, sexuality, child custody battles and more - which kept me fully engaged. But the problem was, that there were almost too many ideas for such a short book (it's under 270 pages).
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