Interest in World War I settings

Maybe it is the centennial anniversary of the start of World War I or the TV series Downton Abbey, but whatever it is, World War I themed books are popular now. World War I is the setting of the new book Stella Bain by Anita Shreve. The story starts in France during March of 1916. An unconscious woman was brought to a battlefield hospital. She does not know who she is but thinks her name is Stella Bain and that she knows how to drive an ambulance. Her accent is American, but she was wearing the uniform of the British Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Red Cross. She has a feeling that she needs to get to the Admiralty in London. She is very ill by the time she gets to London and is taken in by Lily and August Bridges. August is a doctor with an interest in the theories of Freud. Stella does sketches that are glimpses of her past, but she cannot make sense of them. Finally Stella gets to the Admiralty and sees Samuel Asher who calls her by her real name, Etna Bliss, and her memory returns. Stella, now Etna, remembers that she has children and travels back to New Hampshire determined to get them back. The last two-thirds of the book are about Etna’s background and deal with her efforts to get her children, Clara and Nicky, back from her estranged husband. Etna (Stella Bain) is a sympathetic character, and the book is a moving and thought-provoking story of the psychological effects of trauma—both those experienced in war and in domestic situations. For more World War I settings, try 1914 by Jean Echenoz, Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, or one of the classics such as Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway or All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Just ask us for suggestions.

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