• Hardcover: 368 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (March 28, 2017)
Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold
Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.
Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.
First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.
As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.
Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.
Happy Thursday everyone! I hope your week has been wonderful thus far! I have had a crazy busy week with work and school (even though I had most of Monday off this week! The good news: I’m not sick anymore! Also good news: I am having a wonderful time reading some really great books.
This week I had the pleasure of reading The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. I received an ARC from the publisher through TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review of it.
The Women in the Castle is a historical fiction novel set in the period around and during World War II. It is told in the alternating perspectives of multiple characters in the story, men and women but really centers around a group of women who find themselves raising their children together in a castle, their husbands dead and just trying to survive and build a life. That is all I will say about the events of the book as I do not want to give spoilers!
So I ended up giving this book a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. I enjoyed reading it although it definitely was hard for me to read it at times as most stories that take place in this time period are just because they tend to have some really heartbreaking but important content. This book was no different in that respect, there was definitely some heartbreaking and terribly tragic events that transpired but it was also interesting, suspenseful and at times hopeful.
This was the first book I have read that shows the events of WWII through the eyes of German citizens who were staunchly against Hitler’s ideals and regime from the start. It also showcased the perspectives of people who were very pro Hitler from the beginning which evolved into them realizing too late what they were actually supporting. It was just a very interesting and affecting story. WWII stories for me are always glimpses of the absolute worst of humanity with pockets of goodness shining through like the people who opposed such cruelty and tried against all odds to save lives. I think the author treated really difficult themes really well.
The only thing I had a little bit of a hard time with was the timeline. I love stories with multiple perspectives but this one also had an alternating timeline where it wasn’t told in a straight line type of narrative but rather, it jumped around and back and forth through time. It wasn’t super difficult for me to follow but I can see how it might be difficult for some readers. It did help that the dates are provided but I found myself having to back track and connect the years and months to create a picture of the timeline in my mind to make sure I was getting events in the right order.
I loved the writing and I empathized with all of the characters and felt especially connected to Benita and Martin – what they go through and where they end up. There were alot of pieces of this story that were gut wrenching for me, I didn’t need to put the book down which is something I find myself doing every now and then with WWII books that include descriptions of human cruelty to the Jews but I did have to close my eyes, take a deep breath and move forward. Things that also affected me in this story were the sexual slavery of women in wartime, cruelty to children and some things I consider examples of animal cruelty.
I love reading books in this style that show the affects of WWII on the lives of so many and the evolution of their life and beliefs throughout. I definitely recommend this book to readers that love historical fiction or are interested in reading more historical fiction based in WWII.
About Jessica Shattuck
Jessica Shattuck is the award-winning author of The Hazards of Good Breeding, which was a New York Times Notable Book and finalist for the PEN/Winship Award, and Perfect Life. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New Yorker, Glamour, Mother Jones, Wired, and The Believer, among other publications. A graduate of Harvard University, she received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives with her husband and three children in Brookline, Massachusetts.