My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

ARC Review: The Women In The Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Please Note:  I received an advanced reader's copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
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 resistor 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 naïve Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resistor’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. 

When I was in my twenties, I took a European trip over the summer. We got a Euro-rail pass and quickly traversed the continent.  At the end of our journey, we spent some time in Germany.  One of the destinations we visited was the site of the Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich.

For me, this was a sobering afternoon that gave rise to outrage that people could be so evil to each other.  Throughout the rest of our time in Germany, rightly or wrongly, whenever I saw an older German person (this was in the 1980's), I couldn't help but think, "What was your role in the war?"

This book explores this through the eyes of three civilian women.  It delves deeply into what action, and inaction, does to a person after such a devastating moment in history.  Without pleading for sympathy, this book shows how each person is both victim and perpetrator.

What I Liked:
New Perspectives: 
I like to read historical fiction because I can gain insight into a time period that I haven't lived in.  While many recent books such as The Nightingale, and All The Light We Cannot See have begun to show some German's viewpoints, this book specifically zeroes in on the experiences of German women. 

Each of the women has a unique story that adds layers of understanding to the reader's perception of the story.  Marianne, the wife of an intellectual, seems to hold a moral superiority over the group.  Her husband was convicted and killed for trying to stop Hitler.  Yet, she and her family benefited from Nazi forced labor.  Benita, the beautiful spoiled wife of Marianne's friend, is all too eager to conveniently forget what some soldiers did in the war.  And Ania has abundant secrets from the conflict.

Strong Female Characters:
Even with such diverse backgrounds, what all three of these women shared was a unrelenting love for their children.  I was very struck by the fact that all the men in these women's lives prior to the war let them down.  They were left to fend for themselves.  So, when faced with such adversity, the women did whatever was needed to keep their children safe, regardless of the moral implications.  

Historical Detail:
I appreciated all the detailed scenes of ordinary life, especially in showing the dependencies between how people lived (rich vs. poor) in Germany.  The abundance at Marianne's party before the war is in sharp contrast to the hunger experienced by Benita in her youth.  Even after the war, aristocratic Marianne has resources that others cannot fathom.  

What I Didn't Like:


This book shows the human cost of war.  There are no winners here.  Only survivors.  As countries around the world seems to lean toward nationalism once again, I can only hope people can read books such as The Women In The Castle and be reminded of what can happen when we forget our shared humanity.


Release Date:  March 28th, 2017

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  ARC E-Book

Recommendation:  Thought-provoking and haunting, this would make for a great book club selection. 

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1 comment :

  1. Fabulous review, I'm really looking forward to reading this, hopefully soon.


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