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Review: The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Title: The Women in the Castle
Author: Jessica Shattuck
Year Published: 2017

Genre: Adult historical fiction
Pages: 353
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)Germany and USA (ME)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): 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 in to 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 Marianne 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, and filled with dark secrets 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.

Review: A World War II book, obviously I'm going to read it! I saw this book reviewed by Sue on Book by Book and thought it sounded good. For some reason it took me a while to read this one, but I am glad I did.

This book is really a character study of three women and how their lives are affected by being German in World War II. Though their lives intersect in Marianne's castle at the end of the war, we learn about their lives before and during the war as well as how they support one another in the the war's immediate aftermath and the decades after. Each woman brings to the castle her secrets, her children, her loves (lost, dead, and missing), her fears, and her heartache. Each story is so similar, yet very different.

Marianne is strong and sure in her role as hostess and wife of a resister. Benita is quiet and unsure in her role as sexual being. Ania is living the biggest lie. Together they raise their children, fend for the group against intruders, learn to navigate Germany's new role post-war, and move on from the castle and their lives as the war becomes merely a memory for the newer generations.

Once I was really into this book, I was really into it. Each chapter seems to reveal more of the past, more lies, more secrets... more revelations that help the reader to fully understand the actions of each of these women. They have each done the best they could with what they had and I cannot fault them for any of it.

Challenges for which this counts:

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