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Stones from the River (Oprah's Book Club) by…

Stones from the River (Oprah's Book Club) (original 1994; edition 1994)

by Ursula Hegi

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4,107581,822 (3.98)111
Title:Stones from the River (Oprah's Book Club)
Authors:Ursula Hegi
Info:Poseidon Pr (1994), Hardcover, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:novels, fiction, magical realism and fantastic, bedroom library

Work details

Stones From The River by Ursula Hegi (1994)

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Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
Review: Stones From The River by Ursula Hegi.

I enjoyed the story; however it took some time to get through the first half of the book. It was well written but too much material on people, places, and things. There are historical events, biographical insight, and psychological analysis is deepened and connected with the author’s creative use of symbolism just as the stones, the river, the flood, all participated in the strength of the book’s themes.

The story began with the birth of Trudi, her toddler days to her teenage years and than her adulthood. Throughout the story I notice the changes of a very deep and dark commencement with Trudi’s behavior. Trudi was born a dwarf which turned her mother insensitive towards her and later insane and she died. Her father loved her and her mother intensely and did whatever he could to replace her mother’s caring touch. 07/07/2017

Trudi’s dwarfism adds some intrigue and fascination for the reader but for Trudi it hindered layers of conflict, development, and self-discovery through her maturing process. Trudi’s loving father raises her to be independent and she turns out to be a great story-teller. Some are true, some are made-up and some are a little of both. She used her stories to cover her irate attitude towards others because she could not grow taller.

Trudi’s trouble with anxiety, jealousy and anger lowered her self-esteem through her teenage years and her encounters with discriminatory society in Germany throughout her life. As Trudi struggles with her own self-image, she is faced with a Country where Hitler comes to power and Trudi’s neighbors begin to change. Some citizens embraced the Nazi beliefs, others join because they are scared but Trudi and her father silently do the right thing and not join the Nazi party and they secretly hide the Jews… ( )
1 vote Juan-banjo | Jul 11, 2018 |
“...much of what the church calls sin is simply being human.”

This novel is a fascinating piece of historical fiction set around the lives of the people in a small town in Germany from 1915 until 1952 during some of the most turbulent years of German history. The story centres around Trudi Montag, a Zwerg, dwarf, born in the fictional town of Burgdorf, close to the real-life city of Dusseldorf. Trudi’s world is made up of the people of Burgdorf, Catholic and Jewish. She is short in stature but full of spirit.

Due to her physical appearance Trudi is something of an outcast, often a loner. However, her father, who owns and runs the local pay-library, is a popular figure within the town liked by virtually everyone. Due to his popularity and her inquisitiveness Trudi becomes the town's repository of gossip and natural storyteller, whose stories encircle the residents of the town. Trudi's stories become both her weapon and her charm against the townspeople drawing them in like a moth to a flame.

Trudi’s father, Leo, is injured during WWI leaving him with a painful limp for the rest of his life. His wife Gertrud is beautiful but also a little crazed. She initially shuns her dwarf baby but finally comes to accept her. Gertrude would often run away from home or hide in an earth den under the Montag home and as Trudi grows older it is only her stories that will coax her mother back into the house. Gertrud was in and out of a sanatorium dying there making Trudi feel responsible for her mother’s “illness.”

As a child Trudi thought everyone knew what went on inside each other but as she grew older she began to understood the power and the agony of being different. For years she prayed to grow but comes to the realization that praying for something did not make it happen and that if she wanted anything to happen then she would have to be the one who makes it happen.

By the end of World War I there were few men in the town meaning that the women had to make all the decisions and were the backbone of their community. Yet when the men slowly return to the town the women reluctantly give up their independence returning to their place in the household from where they see Hitler and the Nazi Party rise to pre-eminence. The people are drawn in gradually, almost imperceptibly. Many of the men of the town join the Nazi Party believing that Hitler will return the country to prominence but Leo along with Trudi remain outside. When WWII begins Leo states “To win this war would be the worst possible fate for the Germans.“ Trudi and her father never forget their friendship with their Jewish neighbours and even become part of a network that hides and tries and gets Jews out of the country when the internments begin. However, even at the end of the war many of his 'German' neighbours refuse to admit that they did anything wrong or even knew about the atrocities taking place in the larger country no doubt mirroring many of the beliefs of the time. It is interesting see how generally good people allowed Nazism to happen despite seeing with their owns their neighbours being persecuted. I'm reminded of a couple of Edmund Burke quotes "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" and "The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse".

Trudi is envious of the other girls believing that they have it easy because they are regular size but it is not only her stature that makes her different. She does not look like the other girls she also refuses to abide by the norms of the town. At school the nun teachers are exasperated with her she constantly raises her hand whereas the other girls keep silent even if they knew the answers, while the boys demanded to be heard. Trudi refuses to conform to other peoples' expectations of her. When she is young she uses her stories as currency but as she grows older she realises that her stories can do good as well as harm, that they can keep the memory of those who have died alive. Trudi's presence in the town and her stories means that no one can completely gloss over their past.

This is a beautifully crafted novel despite its terrible historical background. It has touches of some of the epic Russian novels and come the end you feel that know the people in her world as you might your own. I would recommend this novel to anyone but especially anybody who interested in seeing this traumatic period in world history from a German civilian point of view. ( )
1 vote PilgrimJess | Feb 16, 2018 |
rabck from JDT; LMIC book club Oct 08; Set in Germany from 1915 - 1952, so spans the two wars. Trudi is a Zwerg - a dwarf - who’s father was injured in WWI and now owns a pay-library. Her mother became mentally ill after her birth, institutionalized several times before she passes away. Hegi draws in the villagers of Burgdorf, their eccentricities, hate and kindness to each other, before starting in to the difficult subject of the atrocities of the war. While the camps were built far away, the suspicion, eviction of certain "undesirables" from their homes and the paralysis of most of the villagers to help for fear they'd be next, was hard to read. ( )
1 vote nancynova | Feb 10, 2018 |
It's not very often I finish a book and think, "What was the point?" ( )
  Lit_Cat | Dec 9, 2017 |
A bit wordy for my taste but was intrigued to know more of the history of these characters having read In My Mother's Palm first. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Aug 12, 2016 |
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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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 068484477X, Paperback)

Oprah Book Club® Selection, February 1997: Ursula Hegi's Stones from the River clamors for comparisons to Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum; her protagonist Trudi Montag--like the unforgettable Oskar Mazerath--is a dwarf living in Germany during the two World Wars. To its credit, Stones does not wilt from the comparison. Hegi's book has a distinctive, appealing flavor of its own. Stone's characters are off-center enough to hold your attention despite the inevitable dominance of the setting: There's Trudi's mother, who slowly goes insane living in an "earth nest" beneath the family house; Trudi's best friend Georg, whose parents dress him as the girl they always wanted; and, of course, Trudi herself, whose condition dooms her to long for an impossible normalcy. Futhermore, the reader's inevitable sympathy for Trudi, the dwarf, heightens the true grotesqueness of Nazi Germany. Stones from the River is a nightmare journey with an unforgettable guide.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:54 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

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. From the bookjacket.

» see all 6 descriptions

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