“Suddenly she saw everything in its harsh, naked state. She felt the pulse of the lives lived inside the mean little house she passed: selfish or generous, kind or unkind, ugly or tolerable, almost all of them sad.”
Happy Monday, Savvy Readers!
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck is finally out and I cannot stop gushing about it! It is an emotional read, and I highly recommend picking up this beautiful and important book.
The Women in the Castle is a stunning new novel that tells the story of three German women brought together during the aftermath of World War II. It is an incredible work of historical fiction that deals with loss, identity, endurance, and female friendships. Jessica Shattuck was inspired by her own family, and began researching her family’s past in Germany and what it meant to be German. Weaving past and present together, the story shares the narratives of these women and their children as they fight to survive.
The novel begins before the war, with a lavish party at Burg Lingenfels, an old but stately castle in southern Germany. Marianne von Lingenfels entertains guests while her husband Albrecht and a small group of co-conspirators hatch a plan to assassinate Hitler. Along the conspirators is Connie Flederman, Marianne’s childhood best friend. Connie entrusts Marianne with the task of taking care of his new wife Benita, should something go wrong.
Things do go wrong, as the assassination plot is foiled and the resisters are put to death. Marianne is left alone with her children, but vows to find and take care of the resisters’ families. Following Hitler’s collapse, Marianne and her children return to Burg Lingenfels, along with Bernita and her son, and Ania, another widow.
Marianne, Bernita, and Ania create new familial bonds as they try to salvage a sense of normalcy amidst the wreckage of post-war Germany. The book attempts to explore what citizens felt and saw during Hitler’s regime. How much did Germans really know about the treatment of Jewish citizens during the war? The book does an excellent job at showing the dynamics of compliance and resistance. Coping with loss and guilt, the women and children must endure and rebuild. Deep friendships grow, though they are tested throughout the story as each woman grapples with the secrets of her past. The bonds between these characters are both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
I love the way these three women of different backgrounds and experiences come together and try to make sense of it all. The storytelling is truly beautiful and features characters that are vivid and compelling. This story stayed with me long after I finished it!
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