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Stones from the River

(Burgdorf Cycle #1)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  92,957 ratings  ·  2,086 reviews
Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780684844770

From the highly acclaimed, award-winning author of Floating in My Mother's Palm comes a stunning novel about ordinary people living in extraordinary times.

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 al
Paperback, 525 pages
Published March 1st 1995 by Scribner Paperback Fiction (first published 1994)
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Susan Iskowich I found the writing to be the total opposite of lame. And I would have to agree with Julie, one of the best books I have ever read; I was actually a b…moreI found the writing to be the total opposite of lame. And I would have to agree with Julie, one of the best books I have ever read; I was actually a bit sad to have finished it. (less)
Laura Berman The book is written so well that I found I did very little skimming of descriptive parts. The characters are well constructed and the story is both we…moreThe book is written so well that I found I did very little skimming of descriptive parts. The characters are well constructed and the story is both well constructed and fascinating. (less)

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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  92,957 ratings  ·  2,086 reviews

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Oct 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This was an excellent book. I was astounded by Hegi's ability to capture both the everyday life of Germans over the 20-year span leading up to the end of WWII and the experience of a woman with dwarfism. Not once does she dramatize for the sake of Hollywood-like entertainment. Considering the standard treatments for both the topics of dwarfism and WWII, this is indeed a rare accomplishment.

I myself have dwarfism and am usually sick of the average portrayal of dwarfs in the media as either amusi
Violet wells
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
I've got a German friend who every time the war is mentioned suffers a rush of blood to her face and looks physically pained. She continually makes me realise what a struggle it is for sensitive, generous spirited Germans to come to terms with what happened under the Nazis. And this despite one of her great grandfathers taking part in the coup against Hitler and being hanged. I mention this because the author of this novel is German and this novel, to some extent, is an attempt at atonement. Unf ...more
Jessica Reese
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, literature
I found this book at a library sale, and ended up buying it because I like the way the first page read. Unlike many of the people who have reviewed this book I loved it from the beginning. Trudi's insight into the world is amazing, and while very mature for her age, with a slight mental leap, completely believable.

Ultimately this is a book about differences. When we begin the story, Trudi and her friend Georg are the outcasts, but as the plot progresses-- as the Nazi's gain more power and WWII
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war-stories, fiction
She stood firm in the midst of ridicule. She chose life in the middle of war. She took action instead of simply staying silent to atrocity. She gave people books and stories to take them away from their dismal worlds of hunger and strife. Despite being a little woman who was pitied and bullied because of her height, she chose people and books. She was not all good, but she was not all bad. She was human.

Staying close to the jetty, she'd streak through the shallow water like a frog, dive to t
Dec 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
OK, yesterday I finished the book....... and I am having a very hard time choosing the stars and knowing what to say! Yes, it is a very, very good book, BUT STILL it only received 4 rather then 5 stars. The positive first! The book is speckled with marvelous lines that get you thinking. For example - "by getting closer to a smaller world, she had found a larger world." Think about that and how true it is! Trudi, the main character's father has died. She says, "What she missed most was the certai ...more
Carey McDonald
Feb 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was the first book I read with my new book club and I feel I need to rationalize the four- instead of five-star rating. The story is so important, and so deftly told, and the author does a great job of capturing the lives of citizens in a small German town from post-WWI through post-WWII. I felt like I came to know many of the characters personally. I cried several times. I had to really rethink what I know about history. And there were moments in the book where I literally had to stop read ...more
Dec 11, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mttbr-2012
A sensitively imagined portrayal of a small German town in the fateful years between the first and second World Wars narrated from the perspective of an appealing main character who is both of the town in that she is the keeper of their secrets and the source of their gossip, but also other due to her diminutive size, there's a lot to like about this rich and colourful web of life. For me personally it has the added attraction of this fictional town being situated just down the road, the locatio ...more
Teresa Lukey
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Right from the start I need to preface this review with the fact that I know my review will not do this story justice. It is a most eloquent story told through Trudi, a dwarf born in a small German town during WWI. This story actual begins during the first World War and continues through the second World War.

Trudi struggles with being a dwarf and hangs from her hands to stretch her body and tightly ties scarves around her head to keep it from getting any bigger. She yearns for love and believes
Elyse  Walters
An abbreviated buddy-read-review- with Violet 🥳

Fabulous beginning - “then the barrage of details began sucking the vitality out of it”!!!.

Themes galore....
Historical Fiction, Nazi-Regime Germany- holocaust atrocities and cruelty towards Jews, small German village town/community-tales,
dwarfism, (the main protagonist,Trudi Montag, was born a dwarf/*Zwerg*, female, adding uniqueness),
discrimination, outsider feelings,
rumors, gossip, coming-of-age, abandonment, prejudice, jealousy, violence, rag
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It was like that with stories: she could see beneath their surface, know the undercurrents, the whirlpools that could take you down, the hidden clusters of rocks. Stories could blind you, rise around you in a myriad of colors. Every time Trudi took a story and let it stream through her mind from beginning to end, it grew fuller, richer, feeding on her visions of those people the story belonged to until it lefts its bed like the river she loved. And it was then that she'd have to tell the story t
Jessica Sullivan
This is one of the books that I recognize as being objectively wonderful in spite of my own ambivalence about it. It's about a young dwarf named Trudi Montag, and her life in a small fictional German town during the rise and fall of the Holocaust.

All throughout her childhood, Trudi yearns to belong, and when she finally does—being German rather than Jewish—the irony is that she no longer wants to. Trudi recognizes from the very beginning that what's going on around her isn't right, and eventual
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished, 2007, fiction
I loved this book from the beginning. The anger and passion of Trudi captivated me from beginning to end, and I had a hard time putting this book down.

I found that I had to concentrate harder on this book due to the number of characters, and with all of the german names. This made it much harder to rush through the book, which ultimately should be cherished anyway.

I loved Trudi's strengths as a story teller, and her understanding of her surroundings that bordered on magical realism.

Will read
Red Haircrow
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Although I often read history, especially books regarding World War II and Germany, memoirs, collected memories, analysis into the various horrors and sheer arrogant stupidity of what the Nazis and others did, I seldom, if ever, read fiction books about those times.

This book, however, caught my eye because the central character was a Zwerg, or dwarf, one of the many groups considered “unfit to live” which were summarily done away with under the Nazi regime. Secondly, this character, Trudi Montag
Debbie Zapata
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dar
A grim book about grim years. This is the story of a town in Germany from 1915 to 1952. More specifically, this is the story of a woman of that town and her relationship to other people and to the world.

Trudi was born with dwarfism. We see life through her eyes, through her experiences. We get to know most of the people in the town (and there are a lot of them) and how they respond to Trudi. We see how she creates a life for herself and how she deals with her physical limitations. Trudi is a st
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I've read all of Ursula Hegi’s books and have yet to be disappointed. I found this to be her finest work. In fact, Stones From The River stands among my favorite novels. A high school friend turned me onto this book years ago and I am forever glad she did. It's still one of my favorite novels on my shelves. Stones From The River is the first in the Burgdorf series of novels set in Germany around the time of WWII. With the creation of Trudi Montag, Hegi set the stage for some of the finest, most ...more
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There aren't enough stars in the universe with which to rate this book. As five stars is all I can give "Stones from the River" I do so knowing that no amount of stars nor any review no matter how sexy or lyrical or witty or heart "wrenching-ly" beautiful could ever do the book or Ursula Hegi justice.

I wish that "Stones from the River" had an infinite number of pages so that I could read it for the rest of my life.

Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
Trudi Montag, a manipulative, resentful, nosy dwarf uses the secrets she gathers to extract her revenge on the townspeople who consider themselves superior and shun her, during the period from the First to Second World Wars in Burgdorf, Germany. As far as synopses go, that would be pretty accurate but it wouldn't make you want to read the book. The main character may be less than sympathetic, but she is sharp and observant, and paints finely tuned, sensitive, and insightful pictures of her fello ...more
Sep 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Some books disappoint on a second reading, but not this one. When it came time for my book club to read this book I was very excited, because I remembered that I really liked it the first time I read it. And I was not disappointed. I think I liked this book at least as much the second time around as the first.

This is a story with two contrasting themes. One is difference. Told mostly from the perspective of Trudi, a dwarf, who feels how different she is from the members of her community on a dai
Aug 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tifnie by: Sue LaCabe
Shelves: fiction
This is a book that I would not have picked out for myself to read if it weren't for my mother in-law.

The story, set in German in the early 1900's, is about a courageous blond, blue eyed girl named Trudi Montag who just happens to be a dwarf. Over the course of 4 decades, Trudi, tells you the story of her town, her friends, her physical limitations, her jealousy, and most importantly the Hitler reign that sweeps through her town exterminating all Jews and anyone who tries to help them.

I enjoye
Deborah Escobar
Aug 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book brought home what it was like to live in World War II era Germany and gave me new understanding of the Nazi takeover and what it meant for German residents. It was also somewhat spooky in that regard, that some people were so wholeheartedly caught up in the militaristic regime, and that it was not safe for others to speak out. It made me think of that line from poetry, what we at first abhor we first come to tolerate, and then embrace. Excellent book.
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Amazing!!! I have read one other book by Hegi, and now I want to read all her works. This book took me a long time to read, but mostly it was because I wanted to savor it. And read every. Single. Word. I loved these characters, and I enjoyed spending time with them, sharing in their stories, reveling in the words that made them come to life. My heart broke with and for some of them. Hegi has a way of bringing her characters to life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Bonnie Brody
Feb 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I get to read a book that is not only great, but is also life-affirming a and life changing. 'Stones from the River' is that kind of a book.

This epic-like novel spans from 1915-1952 and takes place in Germany. Told from the vantage point of Trudi, a 'zwerg' (the German word for 'dwarf'), she recounts pre- and post-war Germany in her small town. Because she is tiny in stature she is often discounted and thought of as childlike. This is far from the truth. She is intelligent and wise. Be
Johnna Adams
Jul 30, 2007 rated it liked it
I am lucky that I was trapped on a train for six hours going to Hartford and back, or I think I would have had a hard time getting into this one. Ultimately, it was a lovely and rewarding book-- but the first couple of hundred pages are all setup and a bit difficult to sludge through.

The book is about Trudi Montag, a young dwarf in rural Germany born to a WWI soldier and a crazy woman who grows up to defy the Nazis during WWII in her small town. The WWII portion of the book is fascinating and gr
Sep 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-group
First of all, I could have done without all the sexual moments. I know this is part of life, which is what this book is about, but much of it wasn't necessary. It ruined the book for me. I read this book with a lot of apprehension - not trusting it and expecting something horrible at any moment.

That being said, this book captures human emotions of all kinds, but focuses on being different. One of the morals I took from this story is how we let our differences become barriers. Like Trudi we often
May 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
I was very disappointed in this book. I didn't care for the main character... Like, literally, I couldn't have cared less what happened to her.

Nor did I understand her. How could she remember everything about her mother from the time she was born? Her mother died before she turned 4 and she remembered everything? And she is psychic, I guess? All of these understandings of family secrets and approaching deaths... How? What? I didn't understand her character at all.

There were way too many charac
Reindert Van Zwaal
Sep 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Although there was not really a story going on, there were quite some interesting chapters and touching things. Overall it was not really a book that keeps you willing to read on. More like a movie in which there is no tension at all.
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely gorgeous, lucid writing.
Jun 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: celie-s, borrowed, 2014
I am not in the right reading mood lately! Books aren't sitting right with me. I need to go to reading therapy and figure out what's going on.

I've had this borrowed from my friend for a whole year now; does this ever happen to you? She brought it over, so we could share.


This is a really beautiful book. It is so well-written. The language is loving and rich. It's atmospheric and thoughtful; the characters are complex and relatable. Why didn't I love it? I don't know. It is totally fine! Do
R.K. Cowles
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
3 3/4 stars
This is a very dense book, with many characters and spanning many years. I had a hard time reading it because it is set in Germany between 1915 and 1952. There is a strong emotional impact, enough that I had to put the book down at one point and read something light-hearted before I could come back to it.
The story starts in 1915 when Trudi, a dwarf, is born to Mr. and Mrs. Montag. Mrs. Montag is mentally unbalanced but her husband is very patient and loving, both with his wife who dies when Trud
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Ursula Hegi is the author of Sacred Time, Hotel of the Saints, The Vision of Emma Blau, Tearing the Silence, Salt Dancers, Stones from the River, Floating in My Mother's Palm, Unearned Pleasures and Other Stories, Intrusions, and Trudi & Pia. She is the recipient of more than thirty grants and awards.

Other books in the series

Burgdorf Cycle (4 books)
  • Floating in My Mother's Palm
  • The Vision of Emma Blau
  • Children and Fire

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