Stella Bain by Anita Shreve


18 Critic Reviews

The biggest problem with Stella Bain is that once the mystery is solved, the novelist struggles to keep the narrative going.
-Crazy for Books


An epic story, set against the backdrop of World War I, from bestselling author Anita Shreve.

When an American woman, Stella Bain, is found suffering from severe shell shock in an exclusive garden in London, surgeon August Bridge and his wife selflessly agree to take her in.

A gesture of goodwill turns into something more as Bridge quickly develops a clinical interest in his houseguest. Stella had been working as a nurse's aide near the front, but she can't remember anything prior to four months earlier when she was found wounded on a French battlefield.

In a narrative that takes us from London to America and back again, Shreve has created an engrossing and wrenching tale about love and the meaning of memory, set against the haunting backdrop of a war that destroyed an entire generation.


About Anita Shreve

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Anita Shreve is the acclaimed author of 16 previous novels, including Rescue, A Change in Altitude; Testimony; The Pilot's Wife, which was a selection of Oprah's Book Club; and The Weight of Water, which was a finalist for England's Orange prize. She lives in Massachusetts.
Published November 12, 2013 by Little, Brown and Company. 273 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
Peak Rank on Dec 01 2013
Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Stella Bain
All: 18 | Positive: 13 | Negative: 5


on Aug 06 2013

Although the novel’s structure is somewhat disjointed, and the preliminary amnesiac chapters seem gratuitous in light of the full revelations that follow, the characters are well-drawn and sympathetic. Many surprises are in store.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Aug 26 2013

The novel is both tender and harsh, and the only false note is the use of present tense, which prevents the reader from being pulled in more closely.

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Book Reporter

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on Nov 15 2013

As always, master storyteller Anita Shreve spins a spell-binding web of a tale, guaranteed to snare her readers into turning pages until three in the morning...

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LA Times

Reviewed by Charles McNulty on May 23 2014

Adler is portrayed as a complicatedly charismatic force of nature, a prickly beauty...It's a fitting tribute to a teacher...

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Alice Short on Nov 27 2013

You might hope for a shattering plot twist midway through the novel or some startling psychological insight or an ending that is not necessarily filled with love and laughter. But you'll have to find that elsewhere. Stella Bain is a happily ever after girl.

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Toronto Star

Reviewed by Laura Eggertson on Nov 27 2013

In Stella Bain, Shreve’s writing is spare and luminous, much like her protagonist. She can evoke an intense feeling in just a few words...

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RT Book Reviews

Reviewed by Kathe Robin on Nov 01 2013

Shreve gives this quick, easy read a feeling of immediacy by writing it in the present tense, and her talent for producing quality, thought-provoking work only continues to develop. Stella Bain is a book well worth reading more than once.

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The Boston Globe

Reviewed by Karen Campbell on Nov 12 2013

From the opening pages, Shreve...writes with a spare directness and quiet urgency about aspects of life during World War I. The descriptions of Stella’s time in the field and hospital in France are especially compelling...

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Jocelyn McClurg on Nov 24 2013

Shreve cleverly and movingly shifts between Stella's two lives, as we learn who she really is. A custody battle, a horrible case of wartime disfigurement, and even questions of women's rights emerge in this spare but involving novel.

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That's What She Read

Below average
Reviewed by Michelle on Nov 06 2013

The fact that the story shifts its focus from amnesia and rediscovery to something completely different may cause some discomfort because it happens so suddenly. Ultimately, the story is too ambitious and does not do adequate justice to its heavy subject matter.

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No Charge Bookbunch

Above average
on Sep 21 2013

If you are a fan and have been waiting, you will enjoy the story and wonder when the next book is coming.

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Booktopia Blog

Reviewed by Terry Purcell on Nov 28 2013

This is Anita Shreve at her best and I highly recommend both this her latest book and All He Ever Wanted. Excellent holiday reading.

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The Lostent Wife

Below average
on Nov 30 2013

I was only slightly disappointed by the neat ending; it felt as if the story just kind of fizzled out in favor of a happy ending, and although I understand why Shreve provided that ending to us, it did feel a bit far-fetched.

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The Picky Girl

Below average
on Nov 12 2013

...after the reader understands what has brought her to war and what caused her amnesia, the novel begins to wane.

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Summer Reading Project

Below average
Reviewed by Annie Smith on Oct 10 2013

The story was just words on the page for the most part. Even though Etna's story inspired a lot of sympathy in me, the way it was told struck me as curiously bloodless.

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Historical Novel Review

on Nov 21 2013

Anita Shreve excels at drilling down deep into the human spirit, of unleashing great emotion, and all while telling a riveting story. This is very much a character driven novel, but it also has a touching mystery at its roots that definitely keeps the reader turning the pages.

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Crazy for Books

Below average
on Nov 13 2013

The biggest problem with Stella Bain is that once the mystery is solved, the novelist struggles to keep the narrative going.

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The Review Broads

Reviewed by Ava on Oct 07 2013

As always, beautifully written, incorporating the new ideas of the time, and with a love story inside a love story, this is one of Shreve’s best novels, vibrant, all encompassing, and brilliant in defining one woman’s journey back to herself.

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Debbie Li

Debbie Li 11 Dec 2013

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