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Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi

Stones from the River (original 1994; edition 1995)

by Ursula Hegi (Author)

Series: Burgdorf Cycle (1)

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4,254621,967 (3.98)116
A dwarf becomes the librarian of a small German town. The work makes her privy to many of the town's secrets and she uses them to set people against each other. It's her way of paying them back for the taunts and humiliations.
Title:Stones from the River
Authors:Ursula Hegi (Author)
Info:Simon & Schuster (1997), Edition: Reprint Edition, 525 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Stones From The River by Ursula Hegi (1994)

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» See also 116 mentions

English (59)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
This sat on my shelf for such a long time. I thought about releasing it without reading it but something stopped me. And I'm glad.

One reviewer called it "epic" and I can't think of a better word. It is the story of Trudi Montag, born a little person - dwarf - zwerg - who tried to become normal. As a child she tried to stretch herself by hanging from closet bars. She tried to squash her head to make is smaller, more proportionate.

None of these efforts caused anything but pain, and eventually Trudi gave up on them. She took her place beside her father in their pay library, checking out books, taking in fees, finding books and saving the new ones for special customers. Her mother had lived on the edge of madness so it was Trudi and her father as she grew up.

Fortunately, Trudi's father was a kind, accepting, wise man. During the 1930s in Germany it was easy to be targeted if you were kind and accepting. Her father did not let this deter him from helping when his Jewish neighbors were pushed from their homes and arrested for no reason.

We follow Trudi through her early years, then on into the second world war and beyond. We watch as her neighbors show their true colors and as Trudi learns how to forgive sometimes, but not always. An incident in her early teens caused her to distrust almost everyone, especially those who wanted more from her, who wanted real love.

This huge novel takes a small life and brings into focus what it was like to be German during Hitler's reign, what it was like to be different then as it is now. I appreciated the nuanced portrayals of Trudi's town and neighbors. Written by someone who wasn't alive until much later, it reads like she was there, on the spot.

When they are this good, there is always room for more interpretations of those terrible times, as they bring about greater understanding.
( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
I read this long ago, but it has stuck in my mind -- the sign of an engaging read. ( )
  WendyHinman | Aug 29, 2020 |
This mesmerizing story was hard to put down! It was such a beautifully written book. I was instantly connected to the main character, Trudi, and concerned for the well-being of the minor characters such as Frau Ambromovitz and the others who populate this fictional town. I recommend it highly. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
After Trudi's mother rejects, abandons, and runs away from her dwarf daughter, she eventually feels absolved from this sin of her creation to accept her child.

Trudy becomes both a storyteller and the storehouse of memory for her village.
Alternately totally unlikable as she betrays even her friends with her false rumors and admirable as she hides Jewish People from the Nazis,
the insightful book overflows with foreshadowing, sorrow, grief, and fury.

Dreams of Redemption? ( )
  m.belljackson | Apr 18, 2020 |
i liked this even though it ended up being a wwii book, of which i've long since had my fill. and even though i am unclear what exactly the point of her story is. still, it was nice to read about this small town and the families in it over the span of 30 or so years. i did have some trouble keeping track of all the characters and their individual histories sometimes got confused with each others, which took a little something away from the reading. it was actually really interesting to read about the rise of nazism and, even more so, how people who were members of the party or just regular germans dealt with what they (and hitler) did when the war was over and they were trying to get back to regular life. i hadn't thought, in a while anyway, what that must have been like for people. i've been comparing our administration to hitler's since the election, and it was also good to see some differences. but it was also important to understand how when we say that history repeats itself, that doesn't mean an exact replica, but a shifting and wrinkling of the same underlying seeds, that end up sowing similar crops because people are unaware. we are awakening the same fears and hatreds even if our targets are different, but we are walking dangerously close and sometimes on top of that path the nazis walked.

maybe it was living in this time that we're in now, but reading about the jews who weighed staying versus leaving, who thought it wouldn't - it couldn't - get worse and would have to get better, they're staying made even more sense than it always had. she put it in such easy to understand terms. some people left. some people tried and were denied. some people didn't want to leave their homes. some people didn't want to leave their things.

this wasn't just a wwii book, but that's definitely what stays with me. but it is more than that. it's about how all of us want to fit in but all of us have something different about us. some of us hide it better than others. some don't want to hide it. how we deal with that is part of what makes us who we are. i also like what she says about how we rewrite history. both individually, how we remember things differently than they were, and then collectively, how an entire town can rewrite someone's past. (this came in handy after wwii ended, and soldiers for the ss had to reintegrate into the town.) this is best illustrated with the story of anton immers, who didn't fight in wwi but wanted to, and had himself photographed in someone else's uniform after the war, hung that photo up, came to believe he'd been a hero, and eventually other people remembered fighting alongside him and all the children in the village now had this rewritten, new history as fact.

also, she writes of the power of storytelling and shaping narrative. i really love that thread throughout this book, and how really the stories (even though she doesn't read!) help to sustain trudi and eventually save her.

"Grown-ups were always saying you had to be honest, but that only meant you could say good things about them and bad things about yourself. If you said bad things about them, you were rude, and if you said good things about yourself, you were bragging. She couldn't wait to be a grown-up because grown-ups were always right--except for grown-ups who were maids or cooks or servants: they had to be obedient like children."

"...given a choice, she would rather be the one who was persecuted than the one who did the persecuting. Both had a terrible price to pay, but she would rather endure humiliation and fear than grow numb to what it was to be human."

"'Besides, compared to what you and many others have to suffer--'
'Ah, but we can't do that--compare our pain. It minimizes what happens to us, distorts it. We need to say, yes, this is what happened to me, and this is what I'll do with it.'" ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Mar 23, 2020 |
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As a child Trudi Montag thought everyone knew what went on inside others.
When, at the funeral, Frau Weskopp, who'd worn widow's black for over six years, had tried to comfort Jutta--"Little Joachim is lucky he was christened so that he won't be in purgatory"--Jutta had turned her rage on the old woman, shouting at her to worry about her Nazi sons, who were frying in hell.
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A dwarf becomes the librarian of a small German town. The work makes her privy to many of the town's secrets and she uses them to set people against each other. It's her way of paying them back for the taunts and humiliations.

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Book description
Stones From the River is a daring, dramatic and complex novel of the life in Germany. It is set in Burgdorf, a small fictional German town, between 1915 and 1951. The protagonist is Trudi Montag, a Zwerg--the German word for dwarf woman. As a dwarf she is set apart, the outsider whose physical "otherness" has a corollary in her refusal to be a part of Burgdorf's silent complicity during and after WWII. Trudi establishes her status and power, not through beauty, marriage, or motherhood, but rather as the town's librarian and relentless collector of stories. Through Trudi's unblinking eyes, we witness the growing impact of Nazism on the ordinary townsfolk of Burgdorf as they are thrust on to a larger moral stage and forced to make choices that will forever mark their lives.
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