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Fiction Futures: Anita Shreve and Katy Simpson Smith

Tuesday September 30, 2014
07:00 pm

Tags: Event

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Part Two

 


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Photo Credit: Elise Smith (Smith) and Deborah Feingold (Shreve)

Anita Shreve (Stella Bain) and debut novelist, Katy Simpson Smith (The Story of Land and Sea) read from and discussed their latest books. 

 

About Stella Bain (Little, Brown and Company)

It is 1916, and a woman awakens, wounded, in a field hospital in northern France. She wears the uniform of a British nurse’s aide, but has an American accent. With no memory of her past or what brought her to the battlefields of World War One, she knows only that she can drive an ambulance, and that her name is Stella Bain.

 

Suffering from severe shell shock, Stella ends up in London with no family or friends and, worst of all, no memory of her life before the war. With the help of Dr. August Bridge, a surgeon who takes an interest in her case, Stella must piece together her story and, in doing so, contend with some gut-wrenching truths about the life she left behind. 

 

Anita Shreve is the acclaimed author of seventeen novels, including Rescue; The Pilot’s Wife, which was a selection of Oprah’s Book Club; and The Weight of Water, which was a finalist for England’s Orange Prize. A resident of Massachusetts, she was awarded the John P. Marquand Prize in American Literature. In creating STELLA BAIN, Shreve spent several years researching shell shock, or what is currently known as post-traumatic stress disorder, and the roles of women in war. 

 

About The Story of Land and Sea (Harper)

The Story of Land and Sea is the story of the loss of family, of grappling with faith, and of friendship and love. When ten-year-old Tabitha contracts yellow fever, her father, John, stows her away on a three-mast schooner bound for Bermuda to try to save her life. A former buccaneer and soldier, John has set aside his own seafaring days after the death of Tabitha’s mother, Helen. The daughter of a small plantation owner, Helen has an uneasy friendship with an equally opinionated and stubborn slave girl, Moll. Now, in the wake of tragedy, John tries to fill a hole in his heart with Moll’s eleven-year-old son. These intertwined relationships, shaded by power and race, unfold with a startling complexity that evokes the work of Edward P. Jones and 
Marilynne Robinson.

 

“I chose to set the novel in this particular time and place because of its inherent uncertainty,” says Smith, who was inspired by an actual grave in a Beaufort, N.C. graveyard. “The Revolution was coming to a close, but few people knew what a United States would look like. The town of Beaufort was in a period of decline, losing townspeople to larger cities as economic centers shifted. And the landscape itself was amorphous; on the coast, the land slides into the ocean in bands of marsh and swamp with few clear boundaries. This setting, then, was ideal for characters with similarly tenuous lives.”

 

Katy Simpson Smith was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She attended Mount Holyoke College and received a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She has been working as an adjunct professor at Tulane University and has published a study of early American motherhood, We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South. She lives in New Orleans.