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.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 28th 2017 by William Morrow
ISBN 0062663453 (ISBN13: 9780062663450)
About the Author
Jessica Shattuck is the New York Times bestselling author of The Women in the Castle, The Hazards of Good Breeding, 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, The New Yorker, Glamour, Mother Jones, and Wired, among other publications.
Check out the author's website
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The day of the countess's famous harvest party began with a driving rain that hammered down on all the ancient von Lingenfels castle's sore spots-- springing leaks, dampening floors, and turning its yellow facade a slick, beetle-like black.Marianne is the widow of a "resister"-- a member of the German Resistance that fought against the rise of Hitler and attempted to assassinate him. Marianne's childhood friend Connie is a fellow resister, and he promises him that if anything should happen to him, she will watch over his fiance and the child she is carrying.
Fast forward about seven years to find Marianne taking in Benita and her son after the war, and later joining with another woman Ania and her children. They all live together in the old abandoned castle at Burg Lingenfels. Left damaged and unsure by the war, they have come together to build themselves up once again.
Marianne is a strong woman, perhaps even controlling at times. She can be meddlesome and will happily put others to work, doling out assignments and orders. But she has good intentions, and beneath the tough exterior there is a kindness and generosity.
Benita is pretty and delicate-- too pretty for the life of an uneducated peasant in a small village. and she was the little girl who dreamed of being a princess. And one day she met her prince in Connie Fledermann, longtime friend of Marianne's. Marianne is a bit bristled over Connie's engagement to the beautiful and delicate flower and doesn't understand what he sees in her. But he makes her promise to take care of Benita and their child if anything should happen to him. Which, of course, it does, as this story is about the widows of the resisters.
However Marianne was something of a resister herself. She played her part, if not as large a part as her husband Albrecht and Connie. But she is, after all, just a woman. And that is why she lives to be a widow.
Later after she and Benita are settled in at the castle, Marianne learns of another widow Ania Grabarek and sets out to locate her and bring her to the castle for shelter and safety as well. Ania is serious and matter-of-fact. She tends to be obedient and diligent. As a young girl she had dreams of something more, but conscribed herself to a life of drudgery and compliance.
And there in that old drafty castle the three women lived with their six children, raising them together, and becoming a family.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:
Tuesday, January 9th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, January 15th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Tuesday, January 16th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, January 19th: History from a Woman’s Perspective
Monday, January 22nd: BookNAround
Wednesday, January 31st: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.
Wednesday, January 31st: A Literary Vacation
Monday, February 5th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_
Wednesday, February 7th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks and Novel Mom
Thursday, February 8th: Write – Read – Life
Monday, February 12th: Jessicamap Reviews
TBD: 5 Minutes For Books
My final word: I did like this book! I liked the characters, seeing the different aspects of the events surrounding the rise of Hitler, and the different types of people that played a part-- the Nazis, the resisters, the apathetic and self-absorbed, the cowards, the heroes. They all played a part. I enjoyed the author's writing style, the history lesson wrapped up in a story about humanity. The attempt to explain how it happened, as we who are part of the post-WWII world with hindsight at hand are left to wonder how they could have ever let this happen. I think this story is a pretty good example of how it happened.
The characters are hit-and-miss. With the widows, there were times in their lives when I liked them and others when I didn't. This story bookends the war and the years following the war with glimpses into what these widows came from and where they ended up at the end of their lives.
There have been a lot of books about Hitler and the Holocaust, but I like the unique look this one takes at how the Holocaust was ever allowed to happen, and the contrast of the compliance and resistance. Definitely recommended!
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The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.
I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.