Difficult to get into (about 100 pages), but worth it, once you do. I learned more about WWII reading this novel than I ever did in a history book (sadly). Hegi's characters drove home the pain of having war touch you personally, although you may not be politically involved. Her unique approach to the war descriptions was Shirley Jacksonesque - she presents rumors, bits and pieces, phrases -- and lets your mind assemble them into the horrors you already know took place. One by one, you are introduced to, grow to love, and read the fates of, each person in the main character's (Trudi's) life. Expect to form strong, sentimental attachments.
Every couple of years, I take 'Stones from the River' off my bookshelf and read it over again. I first heard about this book beacuse it was an Oprah's book club pick. 'Stones from the River' is about the life of Trudi Montag,a dwarf who is living her life in a small town in Germany. The book is from Trudi's childhood to her adulthood. She is such a great character and this book is an outstanding read. I wasn't disappointed at all. My favorite line from the book occurs when Trudi is talking to a man named Adolf, a Jew who is hiding in Trudi's house during WWII, and she is comparing the suffering that he and others Jews are going through to others and he tells her: "...But we can't do that-compare our pain. It minimizes what happens to is, distorts it. We need to say, yes, this is what happened to me, and this is what I'll do about it."
I got half way through and couldn't put it down! This Oprah Book Club book from 1997 is completely worth the read. It was very interesting and educational - letting you see the German view of WWII. I was, as many other reviewers, able to learn more about WWII than I had in school. I loved the character associations and seeing them 'grow' from childhood in the early 1900's to later on in life after WWII - seeing how they changed and how their families changed or were lost.
A book you won't regret getting into.
Recommendations by Oprah not withstanding, this book was not for me. It depressed me so profoundly my initial rating was "Hate it", however, I settled on a rating of "Didn't like it". Was it well-written? Even a dummy like me would have to admit the author produces a deep novel, too deep for my comfort. I was forced to recognize that many of the bullies, batterers, and bigots that inhabited that sorry moment in history - guess what - exist in our world today. Do I really want to know that? Not! In fact, like many of the book's sad victims of broken dreams, broken bodies, and broken souls, I just wanted to escape that kind of environment as fast as I could. Like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, I froze up and I could not put this book down until I had painstakingly plowed through it to the finish. Surprise - no happy ending. Well, back to my delightful historic romance novels where I can blissfully view the world through rose-colored fans, the bad guys always get caught and punished, the deformed are made whole once again, and lovers live happily ever after. Shallow me - but at least I won't have to take an anti-depressant! Please, some reader with more discriminating tastes than I, take this book off my Bookshelf soon - if not, I'm going to bring it to my nearest Used Bookstore and swap it for some light reading.
I almost gave up on this book until a fellow PBSer convinced me it really is a good book, and she was right it is. I am so glad I did not give up on it and read it all the way through. It really gave me a new perspective on how life was back then and the struggles people went through just to survive. It made me appreciate the freedoms I now have. It was well written, though a little confusing at times if you do not pay attention.
I am an avid reader and this is one of the most memorable books I have ever read. It is so complex -- the story of how Nazism comes to take over an ordinary small German town through the eyes of a young woman who is a dwarf named Trudi! This is a complex book that will keep you mesmorized every step of the way.
This book was long and VERY detailed. I LOVED the way Hegi writes! She has a way of describing things that I think is similar to the way I think! I enjoyed reading this book even though it is about WWII and has a dark edge. The characters are beliveable and you come to know them! I liked it so much I bought Floating in My Mother's Palm also by Hegi. Haven't started that one yet but I think it will be similar to Stones.
This was excellent. A love story set in Germany during World War II; it is about the lives of a community, a woman, the war--all of it. The main character is wise and insightful. Her descriptions of life around her, all that is ugly and beautiful are full, crisp. This book is complex, engaging, and surprising
I really liked this book. This is a story about a dwarf -- short, undesirable, different the voice of anyone who has ever tried to fit in. Ursual Hegi brings us a timeless and unforgettable story in Trudi and a small town, weaving together a profound tapestry of emotional power, humanity, and truth.
I can't remember why I requested this book as it sat in my "To Read" pile for so long, but I am so glad I did. This book spans the life of one woman... from being a baby, then toddler, then child etc. up to her mid-life and what she goes through as a German in a small town during WW1 and past WW2. It is sad and poignant and beautifully written. As someone who vividly researched what German life was like during WW2 while I was in high school, I learned the more human and daily life aspects from this book than I ever did out of a research book! Halfway through the book, I couldn't put it down and stayed up, bleary eyed to read the last 250 pages. Now I'm reading the next book... not a series, but with some of the same characters.
Reading the back cover of this book makes you NOT want to read it. Dwarfism? Nazism? But DO NOT let that stop you! This book is about people and relationships and is a wonderful read. Unique, but exquisite and fascinating.
Sweeping saga of woman growing up in post-WWI in Germany. She happens to be a dwarf, but she is also very intelligent, insightful, and interesting. Her story gives a haunting picture of life before and after WWII in Germany,the ways that prejudice and moralistic ideas held sway and the results of it all. I was riveted.
Ursula Hegi is a wonderful writer.
Set in early years of WWII in a village in GermanyTrudi Montag is a dwarf--short, undesirable, different, the voice of anyone who has ever tried to fit in. Eventually she learns that being different is a secret that all humans share--from her mother who flees into madness, to her friend Georg whose parents pretend he's a girl, to the Jews Trudi harbors in her cellar.
An unusual beautifully written book, so stunning it can break your heart. The setting is a small town in Germany during World War 1. This book follows the lives of the towns people and the impact of the war on them. A must read, one of my favorite books of all time.
I thought the author, Ursela Hegi, took a long time to develop the characters at the beginning until I got further into the book, and realized why she did. This book starts out in a small German town shortly after WWI, and you get to know the people in it through the main character Trudi Montag, a Zwerg. Trudi is of small statute, but she has a big heart. We follow her through the beginning of the rise the Nazis and how it affects the Jewish people and the Catholic and Protestant Germans in her town. You will find Trudi getting only one of the three things she desires the most, enjoy.
Ursula Hegi's Stones from the River clamors for comparisons to Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum; her protagonist Trudi Montag--like the unforgettable Oskar Mazerath--is a dwarf living in Germany during the two World Wars. To its credit, Stones does not wilt from the comparison. Hegi's book has a distinctive, appealing flavor of its own. Stone's characters are off-center enough to hold your attention despite the inevitable dominance of the setting: There's Trudi's mother, who slowly goes insane living in an "earth nest" beneath the family house; Trudi's best friend Georg, whose parents dress him as the girl they always wanted; and, of course, Trudi herself, whose condition dooms her to long for an impossible normalcy. Futhermore, the reader's inevitable sympathy for Trudi, the dwarf, heightens the true grotesqueness of Nazi Germany.
I tried so hard to like this book, and really get into the story. I had read other reviews about how great it was once you got through the first few chapters. I read this till about page 200, and it just could not hold my attention. The main character was interesting enough, but the story just dragged on, and could not draw me in.
This sat on my shelf for such a long time. I thought about releasing it without reading it but something stopped me. And I'm glad.
One reviewer called it "epic" and I can't think of a better word. It is the story of Trudi Montag, born a little person - dwarf - zwerg - who tried to become normal. As a child she tried to stretch herself by hanging from closet bars. She tried to squash her head to make is smaller, more proportionate.
None of these efforts caused anything but pain, and eventually Trudi gave up on them. She took her place beside her father in their pay library, checking out books, taking in fees, finding books and saving the new ones for special customers. Her mother had lived on the edge of madness so it was Trudi and her father as she grew up.
Fortunately, Trudi's father was a kind, accepting, wise man. During the 1930s in Germany it was easy to be targeted if you were kind and accepting. Her father did not let this deter him from helping when his Jewish neighbors were pushed from their homes and arrested for no reason.
We follow Trudi through her early years, then on into the second world war and beyond. We watch as her neighbors show their true colors and as Trudi learns how to forgive sometimes, but not always. An incident in her early teens caused her to distrust almost everyone, especially those who wanted more from her, who wanted real love.
This huge novel takes a small life and brings into focus what it was like to be German during Hitler's reign, what it was like to be different then as it is now. I appreciated the nuanced portrayals of Trudi's town and neighbors. Written by someone who wasn't alive until much later, it reads like she was there, on the spot.
When they are this good, there is always room for more interpretations of those terrible times, as they bring about greater understanding.
One of the few fiction books I've ever read more than once; I come back to this one again and again. Ursula Hegi has a way of making the characters come alive, so they stay with you even when you are long done with the book.
I found Trudi's personal story less interesting than those of her neighbors. The systematic dehumanization of the Jewish population through Trudi's eyes is well-told. It doesn't feel like a fictionalized account. The horror of how the war made people turn against eachother, even against their own family members, or how people just disappeared never to be heard from again, is unforgettable.
One passage made such an impression I went through half of the book to find it again:
' "I wish they'd make up their minds," Michael Abramowitz said to Leo when he bought his pipe tobacco. "Is Hedwig a witch or a Jew?"
"Why not both? The more labels they find for her, the more justified they can feel in what they're doing."
With this kind of wisdom and insight in her fiction, Ursula Hegi is an author I look forward to reading more from.
This was fine writing, great characters, and an interesting story line. Some of the events & descriptions are really quite riveting. I came to care a great deal about our flawed though admirable heroine and appreciated that she wasn't painted as a perpetually rosy and selfless creature. The book did seem overlong.
I enjoyed this book a lot. Very in depth on all the characters. Tells the story from the germans point of view, they didn't all care for Hilter or the party. Many disappeared and were never seen again. Good story and it held me with every page.
OPRAH BOOK CLUB
POWERFUL, RELATES HOW "IT" -THE HITLER NIGHTMARE-CREEPED INTO PEOPLES LIVES AND HEARTS BY PRODUCING FEAR- A FROG WILL JUMP OUT OF A HOT POT, YET PUT IT INTO A COOL ONE AND TURN UP THE HEAT SLOWLY AND IT WILL COOK TO DEATH...THIS IS IN ITS MOST SIMPLISTIC DESCRIPTION TO A VERY DISTURBING AND COMPLEX ISSUE
This is a fabulous book.It is set in Germany and the main character is a young girl who is a dwarf/midget/little person. It is a fascinating tale of her life and the reader really gets a feel for what it must be like to live as "different kind of person" in a "let's all be the same" world.
"Rich and lively...This moving, elegiac novel commands our compassion and respect for the wisdom and courage to be found in unlikely places, in unlikely times." -Suzanne Ruta, The New York imes Book Review
From back cover:
From the highly acclaimed, award-winning author of Floating in My Mother's Palm comes a stunning novel about ordinary people living in extraordinary times.
Trudi Montag is a Zwerg--a dwarf--short, undesirable, different, the voice of anyone who has ever tried to fit in. Eventually she learns that being different is a secret that all humans share--from her mother who flees into madness, to her friend Georg whose parents pretend he's a girl, to the Jews Trudi harbors in her cellar.
Ursula Hegi brings us a timeless and unforgettable story in Trudi and a small town, weaving together a profound tapestry of emotional power, humanity, and truth.
Trudi Montag is a Zwerg - a drawf - short, undesirable, different, the voice of anyone who has ever tried to fit in. Eventually she learns that being different is a secret that all humans share - from her mother who flees into madness, to her friend Georg whose parents pretend he's a girl, to the Jews Trudi harbors in her cellar.
Ursula Hegi brings us a timeless and unforgettable story in Trudi and a small town, weaving together a profound tapestry of emotional power, humanity, and truth.
FROM THE PUBLISHER
From the highly acclaimed, award-winning author of Floating in My Mother's Palm comes a major novel of Germany during the first half of the twentieth century. In historical scope, in moral complexity, in human drama, and in pure storytelling power, Stones from the River is a beautifully crafted and memorable book whose richly drawn characters stay with us long after we turn the last page. Trudi Montag is born during World War I in the small town of Burgdorf on the Rhein river. She is a Zwerg - a dwarf - short, squat, undesirable, different. All her life Trudi yearns to stretch and grow to be like everyone else. But as she matures to become the town's librarian and its unofficial historian, conscience, and purveyor of gossip, she comes to learn that - like the stones at the bottom of the river, which are seen only when one dives deep beneath its surface - being different is a secret everyone shares: her mother, who flees a betrayal into madness and early death; her widowed, celibate father, lame from one war, who attracts the fantasies of many townswomen; her friend Georg, whose mother pretends he's a girl; Hans Malter, the man who cannot acknowledge his feelings for Trudi; his daughter Hanna, who Trudi believes should have been her child; and especially the Jews and other "undesirables" Trudi harbors in her cellar during the Nazi regime. These secrets, which Trudi chooses to tell or to withhold like a master storyteller, reveal the truths of human existence in a complex and tumultuous period. The story of Trudi and the town of Burgdorf is timeless and unforgettable - the story of people both "good" and "bad," ordinary people living in an unforgiving time during which their actions, or inaction, will mark them forever. Trudi is the collective voice of all women who have tried to belong, to fit in. She is the grotesque in all of us, the courageous in all of us. Stones from the River is a moving novel about life during wartimes as well as the years in between.
This was a book club selection many years ago. As a "baby boomer" I had often wondered, how did the German people allow the Nazi's to gain such power? This book, set between the two World Wars, gave me insight into that process.
"From the highly acclaimed, award-winning author of 'Floating in My Mother's Palm' comes a stunning novel about ordinary people living in extraordinary times.
Trudi Montag is a Zwerg - a dwarf - short, undesirable, different, the voice of anyone who has ever tried to fit in. Eventually she learns that being different is a secret that all humans share - from her mother who flees into madness, to her friend Georg whose parents pretend he's a girl, to the Jews Trudi harbors in her cellar.
Ursula Hegi brings us a timeless and unforgettable story in Trudi and a small town, weaving together a profound tapestry of emotional power, humanity, and truth."