20 November 2014

Review #83: Portrait of Stella by Susan Wüthrich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Often the right path is the one that may be hardest for you to follow. But the hard path is also the one that will make you grow as a human being.”
----Karen Mueller Coombs, author

Susan Wüthrich, an English author, has envisioned a heart-touching story in her debut book, Portrait of Stella, which is about the journey of a young woman, named Jemima searching for her real identity and roots.

A fake birth certificate! No record of her existence in the UK data base. Jemima Ashton is desperate to discover her real identity.
With scant information and the burning question 'who am I?', she embarks on an incredible journey of detection.

On learning of her late mother Stella's disappearance during WWII, she retraces her footsteps across the globe and at a distant vineyard, unearths a family she had no idea existed.
While treading a path of narrow-minded bigotry, scandalous revelations emerge of two families inextricably linked by one woman and the drastic steps they took to hide the truth.

From the very first page itself, the author has tried to arrest the mind of her readers by setting the correct mood and environment in this panoptic family saga, where Jemima tries to search for her mysterious father across the globe. Along with Jemima, the author has taken her readers across various countries from South Africa to New Zealand to Britain, and not only that, the author even takes her readers back in time to an era when World War II has come to an end. In one word, I can say that it's a classic period tale filled with riveting mysteries!

Jemima is the protagonist and her mother Stella never told her anything about her background. Stella was dead when Jemima was questioned by the authorities in UK. Jemima then turns to her grandmother who finally helps her to unravel her mystery behind her background. We get to see the whole story from Jemima's POV, but at times and I can say that at the right moments, the author has introduced Stella's story in the background just in flashbacks. But that doesn't make us disconnected with Jemima's story, in fact, Stella's story help us to understand her reasons better. Moreover there is a promising love story that will only make you feel very warm.

The author has shown us some hard times in the world- the period of Apartheid in South Africa, which was painted with prominence and vividness and the whole picture looked very raw and striking to us. I was able to feel the emotions that the author created while portraying that gruesome period in history.

The whole journey of Jemima from South Africa's darkest time to glorious lands of New Zealand to the aristocratic Britain at the end of World War II will strike you as very compelling and in way quite enlightening.

The writing and the narration was smooth and articulate and that will make the readers feel more connected to the tale. The author's prose was also quite exquisite! It's not only a tale to find your roots, but also a journey to find your true identity and to grow a bit more in your soul.

Verdict: An arresting historical drama filled with puzzles and mysteries, that you can't fail to miss!

Courtesy: I'm so very grateful to the author, Susan Wüthrich, for sending me over a copy of her book, in return for an honest review. 

Author Info:
Raised in the United Kingdom, after spending twenty-five years in South Africa, she now lives in a picturesque village in Switzerland; an idyllic setting in which to pursue her passion.
Visit her here

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  1. Thank you Aditi for reading my book and giving it such a glowing review.
    'Portrait of Stella' was not an easy story to write (took four years) but in the end became a real labour of love.
    It gave me great pleasure to hear how much you enjoyed it.
    Best wishes,

    1. Thank you so much Susan! :) I'm glad that you liked my review.


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