Official Synopsis: From the acclaimed author of Floating in My Mother’s Palm and Children and Fire, a stunning story about ordinary people living in extraordinary times—“epic, daring, magnificent, the product of a defining and mesmerizing vision” (Los Angeles 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.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Burgdorf, Germany. The book starts in 1915, and goes through and beyond WWII.
My copy came from: The library.
My thoughts: Well, I knew this would happen sooner or later, and I’m saddened to say that I did not finish (DNF) Stones From the River. This is the first DNF I’ve had since starting my blog, back in July 2015.
Stones From the River was my book club’s selection this past month, and we met last week to discuss the book. Out of the 7 members of our club, 3 of us hadn’t finished the book by the time we met. It’s a tough read involving very serious content and it’s also a long read at over 500 pages long.
Since it was a DNF for me, I’ll break down my thoughts bullet-style this time!
The Bad – Why I Stopped Reading:
- Subject Matter. I stopped reading around the 125-page mark, and by this time there was mention of the main character being sexually assaulted, another character repeatedly raped, and a kitten was brutally killed by a nasty piece of work. As I had just had to deal with putting my own 12-year-old cat down, and I hadn’t even gotten to the WWII parts of the book yet, Stones From the River was just too heavy of a book for me to read at this point. This is essentially the main reason I stopped reading. I just personally couldn’t handle it.
- Length. My copy of the book was 525 pages long. As I unfortunately waited too long to start the book for book club (due to travelling), I didn’t really have the time to devote to this book. This is not a book that you can skim. Every word, every sentence has weight and importance to it, and racing through a book like this felt disrespectful to me.
- Similarity to Other WWII Books. Stones From the River just did not feel any different to me than other WWII books that I have read. I could sense what I was going to be reading during the WWII sections, and I just didn’t see anything different said here, so opted to read other books that I was behind on.
The Good – Why I May Attempt This Book Again:
- The Writing. I really enjoyed how Ursula Hegi writes. Many of the sentences were weighty and beautiful, and the story had a great flow.
- The Character of Trudi. Trudi is the main character, and she was such a complex character that I really do want to read what happens to her. Since I stopped so early in the book, which is basically told chronologically, I think I only got to Trudi being about 8 years old. So, it’s great that Ursula Hegi was able to convey Trudi’s complexity in her early years. I can only imagine her choices and her actions become more complex as the book continues on.
- The Ending. I’ve read the last 10 or 15 pages of the book, and they are beautifully written, with powerful statements made about WWII and about life. Because of the strength of these final pages, I’m interested to see how characters get there, and what happens.
My book club’s discussion of the book was interesting. But I confess, I didn’t get a whole lot out of it, this is probably because I didn’t finish the book. I also wasn’t convinced to pick the book up again anytime soon. I think we were all a bit distracted due to our meeting falling on the same night as game seven of the World Series.
It took courage for the few, who would preserve the texture of the truth, not to let its fibers slip beneath the web of silence and collusion which people—often with the best of intentions—spun to sustain and protect one another.
The next selection for my book club is the bestseller Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. We usually take a break over the holidays, and so we won’t meet again until February. I’ll probably wait until late January to start on Before the Fall.
Bottom Line: Couldn’t finish it. Maybe I’ll try again one day.
Have you read Before the Fall? Have you read Stones From the River? Should I give it another shot?
Other WWII books that I recommend:
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – This book is narrated by Death and is set in WWII Germany. Beautiful and haunting, this seems to have very similar themes and is an easier (and shorter) read. Links on Amazon and Goodreads
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – This one is set in France, and details the relationship between two sisters. One sister is active in the Resistance, and the other sister stays at home while her husband is away at war, and a Nazi soldier ends up living in her home. Read my review here and links to The Nightingale on Amazon and Goodreads
- A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell – My favorite WWII historical fiction novel. Set in Italy, this story has many characters and touches on many different aspects of WWII (fighting in Africa, the rise of Communism, how WWII affected Italy). Links on Amazon and Goodreads