Picture This – A Visit With Anita Shreve

Today’s post by bestselling author, Anita Shreve | @AnitaShreve1

We’re delighted to have Anita Shreve with us today as she contributes to our 2014 series, Picture This! We’ve asked a select group of authors to share the images that inspired their most recent novels and I think you’ll find Anita’s to be quite moving. We’ve got a copy of her novel STELLA BAIN available to one lucky reader today. See the entry post below for details.

Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve

She sleeps in a bell tent on the coast of France.

The year is 1915. She wakes each morning to a bugle call, or earlier if an ambulance is bringing casualties from the front. There is only a basin of cold water to wash in. She puts on her underwear, a blue dress, a white bib with a red cross on the bosom and a cap made from a white piece of cotton cloth. From that moment, she will spend nine or ten hours (and likely more), performing triage (separating the men near death from the ones who might be saved, then leaving the men likely to die in a separate space, often outside the tent, to be comforted as best as the staff can do), and assisting in surgeries, most of them the amputation of limbs to avoid the dreaded gas gangrene, poison from a wound that will crawl through the extremities until the torso and head are infected, at which point, the man will die. She is appalled by her surroundings: the soil thick with manure and human waste, mud-laced wounds that cause suppurating infections, a compound fracture that becomes a death sentence. A swab of Lysol along with gauze dipped in iodine is all the medicine on offer. Most of the men die.


A surgeon replaces a portion of a man’s skull with silver plate. Our nurse stands at attention, delivering instruments, taking the fouled ones from the surgical nurse to be cleaned and boiled, and stepping up when ordered to mop blood from a wound. In the surgical partition, there is quiet, but out in the tent with the wounded, there is chaos. Screams of the injured, moans from the newly treated, and shrill orders from the ward sisters. Our nurse tends to the less pressing duties as well, namely the care and comfort of the soldiers: bathing them, feeding them, writing letters for those who think they will die, and trying as best she can to treat the soldier with shell shock who exhibits what comes to be known as ‘the thousand yard stare.’

When her shift is over, she will eat in the canteen tent, return to her place in the bell tent, take off her clothes, try to get the blood stains out, pick lice from the seams of her dress, and wash her body as best as she can. Exhausted, she might chat with her tent mates before she lies back on her cot and falls asleep.

She is a hero, unsung and seldom rewarded.

* * *

Shreve_StellaBainHC[1]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.

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34 Responses to Picture This – A Visit With Anita Shreve

  1. Melanie Backus January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    This book sounds fascinating. I would love to learn more.

  2. Heather Day Gilbert January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love Anita Shreve’s writing style/approach and would love to win this book. Sounds like a fascinating time period and storyline.

  3. Marie January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Always love a good Anita Shreve novel 🙂

  4. Tracy D. January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Excited about this book and giveaway.

  5. Jen January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Oh, pick me to win. I am a big fan of Anita’s.

  6. Judie January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Looking forward to reading this interesting story.

  7. Leslie January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’m looking forward to reading this one.

  8. Katherine Jones January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Interesting how often WWI is showing up in literature and on the screen. (The Girl You Left Behind and DA both leap to mind.) I’ve long found Anita Shreve to be a riveting author. Would love to see what she does with this story.

  9. Becky January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Have read all of Anita Shreve’s novels except this one- would love to have my own copy to add this one to my list. Big fan!

  10. Elaine Campbell January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Just started reading a library copy. I would love to house this book in my own library.

  11. vickie dailey January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    i’ve always loved anita’s books the characters are well conceived and the narrative makes you feel part of the story – very interested in reading this one. My favorite book is sea glass

  12. Nancy Reynolds January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like another wonderful book from Anita Shreve. Thanks for the chance to win, but I’ll definitely be getting this book to read even if I’m not the winner.

  13. Book Club Cheerleader January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks, Ariel. This one is on my TBR list, and now I remember why it’s there…(the hazzard of a TBR list longer than one’s life line…) I also loved the pictures. I have the nurses costume–sans the red cross emblem since mine is actually a Civil war nurse (which I wore to celebrate “My Name is Mary Sutter”)and the red cross had not be officially established by then…Thanks for the informative post! Cheers!

  14. Janet R January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’m SO ready to read this book! I’ll bet it would make a great movie too! Thanks for the generous giveaway!

  15. Jackie Cangro January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love historical fiction and especially this time period. I’m looking forward to reading this new book from Anita Shreve.

  16. Gina Holmes January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love Anita’s writing and this looks like something a little different than what she’s been doing. Just put it on my tbr pile!

  17. Kandra January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Anita’s is a new name to me, and I would love to discover her by winning this book! The plot line sounds so interesting and haunting. Choose me!

  18. Ariel January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    This is on my TBR list.

  19. Debbie D January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love historical fiction. This sounds like a great book!

  20. Susan G. January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a great historical novel, which I love to read.
    Thanks for this opportunity to win it. 🙂

  21. Ann Ellison January 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Would love to win a copy of this book.

  22. Gillian January 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I just finished Stella Bain last night. I have a shelf a mile long full of new books but when Anita Shreve puts out a new one it automatically jumps into first place! I have every book she has written and love them all. Stella Bain does not disappoint; it’s a great read!

  23. Karen January 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    ooh..sounds good. Would love to read this!

  24. Gwyn January 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I really enjoy reading Anita Shreve!! This one sounds great!

  25. Lana January 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I like Anita Shreve’s books! Looking forward to this read.

  26. Bonnie K. January 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book by Anita Shreve. This one sounds great. I love reading historical novels set in the WWI time period. I would love to read Stella Bain.

  27. Kathy January 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This historic novel sounds very appealing, especially as I had a yen to be a nurse on the battlefields in my youth. Of course my parents intervened and I went to college instead. “Stella Bain” sounds like a book I would love to read.

  28. Kim January 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I like Anita’s writing and look forward to reading this book too.

  29. Nancy Terry January 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I would LOVE to win this book! Anita Shreve was one of the first authors we chose as the author of a Book Chat selection.Also, our GRANDdaughters would love to reap the rewards of my win.
    Win or lose, I will read this one,

  30. Paula Caurro January 29, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I am a big fan of Anita Shreve. I read an excerp of this novel & I am excited to read it.

  31. Melissa Crytzer Fry January 30, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This books sounds fabulous and the photo is so evocative. It reminds me of a display I saw when my mother was in the hospital last summer; it was filled with old items, including the first nurse’s caps and how they’d evolved over the years. Now, obviously, they aren’t worn, but the change in style came about as a result of technological improvements. Fascinating (and totally off-topic, I know!).

    At any rate, any Anita Shreve book has to be a good book! I’m a fan like so many others!

  32. Pat Gilmer January 31, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    One of my favorite writers! Looking forward to reading this one.

  33. Laura Kay January 31, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I haven’t read any books by Anita Shreve and I feel like I’m missing out! Plus this book sounds just up my ally!

  34. stacybuckeye January 31, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’m already a fan and looking forward to this one!

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