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Stones from the River (1994)

by Ursula Hegi

Series: Burgdorf Cycle (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,681682,409 (3.97)155
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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» See also 155 mentions

English (65)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
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 | Apr 11, 2024 |
I thought it would be better. There were so many paths the author could have taken but didn't. The author could have used the rule of writer's to show and not tell. Like letting the reader in on the main character's rumor making and story telling abilities, would of made a better read, in my humble opinion. ( )
  charlie68 | Sep 16, 2023 |
I enjoyed this novel because Hegi does such a wonderful job of weaving the narratives together without ever making it overwrought and preachy. It is not a story about a Zwerg (dwarf) woman in Germany prior and during World War II. It is a story about Trudi Montag, whose experiences and fears are a mirror to our own trials and tribulations--perhaps not in severity, but in the lessons that can be learned. Despite the sometimes difficult subject matter, Trudi is a redemptive protagonist (at least for the reader), and the book is a beautiful tribute to the challenges of humanity. ( )
  rebcamuse | Jun 25, 2023 |
This sweeping novel, set in a German town on the banks of the Rhein, reckons with German history between World War I and World War II. Trudi Montag was different from the moment of her birth in 1915. Trudi is a Zwerge, a dwarf, and her birth seems to send her fragile mother over the edge of sanity. Trudi’s father, a disabled veteran who runs the town’s pay library, is sensitive to Trudi’s needs and finds creative and loving ways to accommodate them. Trudi and Leo run the library together, with Trudi taking over more of the responsibilities as her father ages.

Trudi has a gift – or perhaps a curse – of sensing others’ unexpressed thoughts and emotions, and this knowledge gives Trudi a feeling of power. She weaves her secrets into stories that both fascinate and repel her neighbors. The young Trudi is often cruel and manipulative, but as she matures, she learns to forgive and extend kindness. As the Nazi party gains a foothold in the town, Trudi uses her stories to protect her Jewish neighbors and others whose lives are endangered, and to force Nazi sympathizers to reckon with the truth.

The novel talks about the baby boom of 1946, following the soldiers’ return. Hegi was born in Germany in 1946, so she was part of that baby boom. She would have experienced the silence of the post-war years, and like Trudi, she uses story to bring truth to light.

They did not understand why Trudi Montag wanted to dig in the dirt, as they called it, didn’t understand that for her it had nothing to do with dirt but with the need to bring out the truth and never forget it. Not that she liked to remember any of it, but she understood that—whatever she knew about what had happened—would be with her from now on, and that no one could escape the responsibility of having lived in this time. ( )
  cbl_tn | May 7, 2023 |
The story of a group of neighbors in a small German village outside Dusseldorf from 1915 to 1952. The main character is Trudi, a dwarf, who uses her outsider status to carefully observe all those she comes in contact with. She feels like a real person, intelligent and sensitive, but also capable of rage, hatred and revenge. The core of the book is the rise of the Nazis, the persecution of the Jews, the ravages of WWII, and the guilt and silence that follows the war. The book is unsparing in condemning those who turned their eyes away from atrocities and the rationalization of their actions, and inaction, when the war is over. It's important to revisit how dangerous authoritarianism governments can be now that they are on the rise worldwide, with even the US flirting with abandoning democracy.

Although this novel was slow reading and never really caught fire for me, the ending is wonderful and ties together how the story was told. ( )
  RobertOK | Jan 20, 2023 |
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As a child Trudi Montag thought everyone knew what went on inside others.
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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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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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