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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 her 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 forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sara on 04-29-17
Skating On The Thin Ice Of Life
Shattuck has written a throughly enthralling and captivating novel of vivid Historic Fiction. Set in post WWII Bavaria the story swirls through time and captures Germany before the war. Using character flashbacks and memories, an intense picture of the war is captured. Not since reading the novel Stones From The River by Ursula Hegi have I read a book that succeeds so beautifully in deepening the readers understanding of how WWII Germany could have happened.
The characters are fully and richly developed and this to me makes it possible to understand the impossible. Shattuck was able to make me care about the most unlikely characters. The writing explores the duality of people, what makes us kind or cruel, and how most of life, in the author's opinion, is lived not in black and white, but in shades of grey. This is a difficult story that is horrifying and shockingly sad--but at the same time absolutely riveting.
I don't speak German so I can't comment on the accuracy of the accents and pronunciations of German words in the narration. However, I thought Campbell did an excellent job with the reading. She captured the emotion and feeling behind the words.
If you liked the book The Nightingale I think you will love this book. Be forewarned, this story is grounded in history and leaves you with more questions than clear and easy answers. Thought provoking, subtle and disturbing. I was transfixed.
131 of 140 people found this review helpful
By M. Ryder on 05-12-17
This audiobook kept me up late... Needed to hear the next chapter, and was glued to the story. The author gave us a very different look at the war and how it changed its people. Despite much of the story being sad, it was also a story of hope and the power of time's ability to ease the burden of painful memories. Cassandra Campbell certainly outdid herself, with incredible performances for each of the characters. At no point did I have any trouble figuring out which of the persons was speaking. Also, her accents were spot-on. Interestingly, for the most part, I am not usually a fan of hers, mostly because she tends to over dramatize everything... But not this time. 👍🏼😊 Will recommend the audiobook to others.
75 of 81 people found this review helpful