book review, historical fiction, WWII

Book Review: The Women of the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

34612398“A resistance widow. A silent co-conspirator. The only one who survived.

Bavaria, Germany. June, 1945.

The Third Reich has crumbled. The Russians are coming.
Can Marianne von Lingenfels and the women in her care survive and build their ravaged world anew?

Marianne – widow of a resistor to the Nazi regime – returns to the grand, crumbling castle where she once played host to all of German high society. She assembles a makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s movement, rescuing her dearest friend’s widow, Benita, from sexual slavery to the Russian army, and Ania from a work camp for political prisoners. She is certain their shared past will bind them together.

But as Benita begins a clandestine relationship and Ania struggles to conceal her role in the Nazi regime, Marianne learns that her clear-cut, highly principled world view has no place in these new, frightening and emotionally-charged days.

All three women must grapple with the realities they now face, and the consequences of decisions each made in the darkest of times . . .”

My Thoughts

I’ve read many fictional and biographical accounts covering the war years and so I was very keen to read this new account told from the perspective of German women. It really was a very powerful story, told very well by the author who took seven years of researching and delving into her own family history to write it. I  imagine that there are innumerable women of German descent who have this same history and many that have never spoken it out loud or shared it beyond their own family circles.

I enjoyed this a lot, although it wasn’t always a comfortable read, as at times it felt more memoir than historical fiction. I was fascinated by the historical details learning so much about the ordinary Germans, those caught up with Hitler’s promises of a new united nation and those appalled at what he was doing.  It does flip between eras with the main character’s stories so I was very glad to have a print copy as it meant it was easier to look back on dates in the time line of the story.

The main characters and their struggles felt so real, making me wonder if they are based on any particular women that the author knows. Being an idealist myself I could identify more with Marianne than Ania or Benita, I really felt for her as tried to uphold the promise she made to her oldest friend.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is interested in the era and wants a different perspective on the subject.

Thanks so much to Readers First for my hardback copy, which really did add to my reading experience.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Women of the Castle by Jessica Shattuck”

  1. I almost requested this one, although in the end I saved it for the future. Looks like an interesting read, despite not being always “comfortable”. The cover is beautiful too!!!

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