Synopses & Reviews
From the internationally bestselling author of The Club comes a gripping historical novel of love and betrayal, set in wartime Berlin
In 1942, Friedrich, an even-keeled but unworldly young man, arrives in Berlin from bucolic Switzerland with dreams of becoming an artist. At a life drawing class, he is hypnotized by the beautiful model, Kristin, who soon becomes his energetic yet enigmatic guide to the bustling and cosmopolitan city. Kristin teaches the naïve Friedrich how to take care of himself in a city filled with danger, and brings him to an underground jazz club where they drink cognac, dance, and kiss. The war feels far away to Friedrich as he falls in love with Kristin, the pair cocooned inside their palatial rooms at the Grand Hotel, where even Champagne and fresh fruit can be obtained thanks to the black market. But as the months pass, the mood in the city darkens yet further, with the Nazi Party tightening their hold on everyday life of all Berliners, terrorizing anyone who might be disloyal to the Reich. Kristin’s loyalties are unclear, and she is not everything she seems, as his realizes when one frightening day she comes back to Friedrich’s hotel suite in tears, battered and bruised. She tells him an astonishing secret: that her real name is Stella, and that she is Jewish, passing for Aryan. Fritz comforts her, but he soon realizes that Stella’s control of the situation is rapidly slipping out of her grasp, and that the Gestapo have an impossible power over her.
As Friedrich confronts Stella’s unimaginable choices, he finds himself woefully unprepared for the history he is living through. Based in part on a real historical character, Stella sets a tortured love story against the backdrop of wartime Berlin, and powerfully explores questions of naiveté, young love, betrayal, and the horrors of history.
“Takis Würger is someone out of the ordinary and this book is like him: powerful, strong, painful. Stella is a book from which we do not emerge unscathed and in which he explores the depths of the human soul. I stayed in this book for a long time after turning the final page. Würger is surely one of the most important writers of our generation.” Joël Dicker, New York Times-bestselling author of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair
“Stella is a book you can hardly put down. You will read it in just a few hours, whatever you might have planned... It has a style which in a certain way echoes Hemingway’s war reporting — you might call it ‘melancholy heroism.’ But it reads very well, you can’t say otherwise.” Die Welt (Germany)
“Spare, affecting... Würger skillfully intertwines fact and fiction... Subtle, thought-provoking.” Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Takis Würger is a reporter working for the German news magazine Der Spiegel. Named one of Medium’s “Top 30 Journalists under 30,” alongside other accolades, Würger’s work as a journalist has taken him to Afghanistan, Libya, Mexico, and Ukraine. His first novel, The Club, won the lit.Cologne debut prize in Germany.
Liesl Schillinger is a literary critic, writer, and translator, and teaches journalism and criticism at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts of the New School for Social Research in New York City. She is the translator of the #1 international bestseller The Psychology of Stupidity, and has translated novels by Alexandre Dumas fils, Nataša Dragnić, Inès Cagnati, and Lorenza Pieri. She is the author of Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century. In 2017, she was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters of France.