Fans of Anita Shreve will not be disappointed with "Stella Bain." Her newest book has all of the elements that have made Shreve such a popular author: it's compelling, disturbing, sometimes hard to read, impossible to put down. The story concerns a young woman found outside a garden in London who knows nothing of her past prior to waking up in a French infirmary on the front lines of WWI. As the story unfolds, we learn that Stella is suffering from amnesia, as a result of shell shock incurred while she was working as a nurses' aide and ambulance driver during the war. Stella also suffers from another, deeply repressed trauma that only comes to light with the help of a British surgeon and his wife, who take Stella in and care for her until she is able to uncover her past.
The book lost some of its steam about two-thirds of the way through. Without giving too much away, let me just say that the ending was somewhat predictable and the description of the trial (which occurred in the second half of the book) wasn't nearly as believable as Shreve's depiction of Stella's experiences during the war. I found those scenes absolutely riveting and I admire Shreve's ability to pull me in so completely, I could almost imagine being there.
I didn't know very much about shell shock prior to reading "Stella Bain" and I found it was a good introduction. The beginnings of art therapy and Freudian psychoanalysis are also explored, adding another layer of interest to the story.
Overall, "Stella Bain" was an easy, enjoyable read. However, there is a deceptive lightness to Shreve's work. She's not a self-indulgent writer - her prose is simple and unassuming - there are no wasted words. But don't underestimate the power of her story-telling. Shreve will pull you in and not let go until its 1:30am in the morning and you've finished the last page! And this.story, just like her others, will haunt you long after it's over.
I received this book to review through GoodReads Early Readers program.