Amid the rage of World War I, an American nurse is found wounded in France – and she has no idea who she is. When questioned, she calls herself Stella Bain, though she’s unsure if that’s correct, even months later when she’s resumed her nursing duties. When the opportunity to visit England presents itself, Stella knows she must go; she knows deep within her bones that the answer to her identity lies with someone or something in the Admiralty. Along the journey, Stella falls ill and is taken in by a young woman whose husband is a cranial surgeon. Intrigued by her case, Dr. Bridge begins gently trying to draw memories out of Stella and help her find out her past.
Stella Bain actually is two distinct stories; the first half deals with her memory loss, and the second half examines both who she was and who she will become. There’s plenty of mystery as to what happened to place Stella in France; it’s very obvious that not only is she cultured, she’s running from something. As the memories begin to surface, fascinating discoveries are made, many of which pose Stella in conflicting lights, and force her to face unpleasantries in which she may have had a hand.
The storyline is unique, and Shreve keeps Stella walking the fine line between sympathetic and frustrating. It’s very obvious that she’s done her research; the nursing situations are vivid and the language is used quite well to transport the reader into the First World War. I was intrigued early on and remained so throughout the reading. This novel is well written and thought-provoking.