I read this book because it was the book club choice for April. I didn’t realise that it was a companion novel until after I had finished so I may be less reliable in my opinion as a result. Taken at face value as a standalone text, The Lives of Stella Bain tells the story of a woman volunteering as an ambulance driver in WW1 France. After being treated for leg injuries and having no recollection of who she is Stella goes to London to try and find the half-remembered someone at the Admiralty who can help her recover her memory. Her recovery is aided by a recently married man who uses Freudian analysis to try and help Stella recall who she is.

I did go and read the companion novel, All He Ever Wanted, afterwards. In AHEW the narrative is told by Stella’s first husband and he is portrayed as a man who is obsessed with his wife and career advancement. Although one would expect differences in a he said-she said narrative what happens to every character is so radically different in the telling that it is difficult to marry the two up. This was obviously done deliberately by Anita Shreve but whether we know either character well by the end is debatable. Whether we actually like either of them by the end is probably down to the reader themselves. For my part, both are unreliable and ultimately very foreign in their thought processes.

Anita Shreve died in March. Her books are generally worth reading but, the blurb of this one said it was part Downtown and part Atonement. Not true in either case.

stella-bain

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