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City of Women by David R. Gillham
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City of Women (edition 2012)

by David R. Gillham

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5457618,389 (3.83)61
Member:MmeRose
Title:City of Women
Authors:David R. Gillham
Info:Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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City of Women by David R. Gillham

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  1. 10
    A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary by Marta Hillers (betsytacy)
    betsytacy: After reading Gillham's novel about a German woman's life in Berlin at the height of World War II, including her affair with a Jewish man and her growing involvement in hiding Jewish residents, turn to A Woman in Berlin, an anonymous diary account of a woman's struggle to survive the Russian occupation of Berlin at the end of the war.… (more)
  2. 10
    Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (pdebolt)
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» See also 61 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
City of Women caught my eye because I’ve been reading a great deal of non-fiction titles around this period of history and I was interested to see how a fictional account of World War II told from a German woman’s perspective squared up to the facts.

In City of Women, Sigrid Schroeder is more than just a German woman: she is the wife of a Nazi soldier and lives with his mother who is staunchly patriotic. Or rather, is willing to be staunchly patriotic if she thinks she’ll benefit in some way by treachery or betrayal. Therefore, Sigrid is taking an immense risk when she does two things. The first is that she has an affair. The second is that she agrees to help people who are hiding from the Nazis. Both require Sigrid to take immense risks, with no gain to her own life and with the very real risk of losing everything.

City of Women was a very good read for three reasons. First of all, it is well written, not overly sentimental, nor overly gritty, but balanced and steady. It draws you in, then pushes you back a little, over and over. You feel the distance from Sigrid that those around her must feel and that she herself feels. Next, the author portrays very well the dilemmas of many Germans during the Second World War, the fear of speaking up lest they be killed. However, the steps beyond that – where looking away, becomes looking at, becomes encouraging – remain a grim reality that this book does not shy away from. That said, this is not a witch hunt, nor an anti-German rant. It is just honest. Finally, Gillham cleverly captures the atmosphere of fear, suspicion, antagonism within a city in turmoil. There are no scenes within the concentration camps or outside of the city but the book still has a huge impact: the oppression, fear, confusion, guilt, anger and bitterness is felt with every page.

Sometimes a book is less about the story than the characters. Sometimes it’s less about the characters than the setting. In City of Women, Gillham has drawn together a dark time, a troubled soul, a beautiful city and the tragedy of millions. Through one woman’s tale he gives us a glimpse of the suffering and tragedy of those who lost their lives or freedom and the sickening day-to-day angst of those who retained theirs – but at what cost? ( )
1 vote donnambr | Nov 27, 2014 |
This is dark and unsettling story that provides an eye opening glimpse into what life may have been for women living in Berlin during the hostilities of WW11. Set in 1943, the city is void of men, most have gone to fight on two fronts and Berlin has become a city of women, children and elderly.

This book was impossible to put down and even harder to forget. Although the WW11 Germany may be familiar, Mr. Gillham has managed to make the story fresh and tells it through the eyes of Sigrid Schroder, his fictional characters, whose husband is off on the front lines and lives every day in a stale terror of English bombings, food shortage and neighborly suspicion. For all intents and purposes she is the model German wife but behind this façade she is an entirely different woman, one that dreams of her lover, a Jewish lover…..and she is not the only one with secrets…..

This is a page turner that explores what happens to people when they are faced with choices that can make the difference between life and death. As the book progresses, Sigrid’s life becomes riddled with danger and as a reader I experienced a multitude of emotions , heard the bomb sirens, the sound of flying aircraft, felt her hunger and hardship and understood why she made the choices she did. The characterization is outstanding. The setting is an impressive imagery of the times and a unique perspective of the female experience. This book is beautifully written, the prose is lyrical and inviting and the dialogue quite sharp.

This was a good choice that kept me riveted till the end. ( )
1 vote Tigerpaw70 | Aug 3, 2014 |
An ordinary hausfrau struggles to get by in her day to day existence in wartime Berlin, her husband fighting on the Eastern Front. Then one evening a gaunt, waif-like girl, not yet twenty, lands suddenly in the seat next to her in a darkened movie theater with a plea that she tell the police a lie on her behalf. She accedes to this plea, and although she doesn’t know it yet, the hausfrau’s life has been changed forever.

In "City of Women" David R. Gillham captures the hardships, the bombastic propaganda, public paranoia, and violent oppression of Berlin in the winter of 1943-1944. Frau Schröder, married to an officer in the Wehrmacht, has Aryan good looks at nearly 30, and owns a pretty healthy rebellious streak. This comes from the continuous abuse and denigration heaped on her first by her mother and grandmother, and then during the story by her hateful and vituperative mother-in-law. This is the story of how Frau Schröder’s illusions peel away one by one, how as she plunges into the shadowy world of smuggling and treason, her actions become more and more reckless and daring. You will turn these pages compulsively to see the plots and counter-plots, and your nerves will jump along with hers as the stakes become higher and higher.

I once again praise and marvel at debut fiction. Such mastery – it’s such a gutsy subject matter and carried off with such assurance, that I recommend this atmospheric and brilliantly-plotted novel very highly. I have not read fiction with an inside view of wartime Berlin before, but here it is, with RAF bombing raids, wartime rationing, crowded transit, and the Führer’s face everywhere. More importantly, though, we witness the moral choices these characters make in the upside-down, unreal world around them. And this is Frau Sigrid Schröder’s – and our – journey. This is brilliantly realized and highly effective. It unwinds beautifully, with new surprises and new threats – and our heroine’s ever-escalating steps to cope with all of it. Take this up, definitely.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2014/06/city-of-women-by-david-r-gillham.html ( )
  LukeS | Jun 28, 2014 |
This story is set in Berlin during the last portion of World War 2. I found it to be dark and somber,and oppressive, as I am sure life must have been for most Berliners. The city is filled with women because, naturally, most of the men were off fighting the war. The story is mostly based on the life of one woman in particular, who is dissatisifed with her life (and was prior to the war). She lives with her bitter mother-in-law, and in their building there are a mixture of women left to fend for themselves during the war years. She met and fell in love with a man (not her husband)who turned out to be Jewish. They parted ways, and yet he comes back into her life again. She meets and befriends a young woman who is hired help for a family living in her building. Through an odd friendship with this young woman, Sigrid learns of the vast underground system used to try and transport Jewish people to safety. Before she knows it she is entrenched in this underground. The ending surprised me; in some ways it was a little too neat and tidy, and in others it was not what I expected. ( )
  Dmtcer | Jun 3, 2014 |
The time is 1943, Berlin and I thought, here's another book about the Germans in World War Two. It seems like I've read a few of these lately so I was prepared to not like this book. Added to that is the fact the the author is an American male writing about women in 1943 Berlin. The book starts out with Sigrid, a married woman with a husband in the war. There is a lot of sex. Another reason for me to not like this book. The sex sets up the rest of the story. Could have done with less detail but the sex does become less as the story progresses. This story sucked me in, it's tense with some twists and it pulled me along on a very thrilling read. I ended up loving this story, even crying. This is a well written story and the narrator was easy to listen to with her German accent. ( )
  Kristelh | May 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
This is a shopworn premise, but Gillham has two great strengths that elevate his story. The first is his hard-won command of Berlin in 1943, its geography, its restaurants and hotels, even its language. (There are German words on nearly every page, but they seem authentic, never showy.) Second, and more significantly, his characters suffer from the full moral complexity of their time. A woman and a man, of whose integrity we have been sure, betray their friends not out of evil, but because they face impossible dilemmas, what the Holocaust scholar Lawrence L. Langer has called "choiceless choices" — while the book's villains have flashes of crabby, unexpected selflessness.
added by ozzer | editUSA Today, Charles Finch (Aug 6, 2012)
 
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Epigraph
"Take hold of kettle, broom, and pan, then you'll surely get a man! Shop and office leave alone, Your true life's work lies at home." -Common German rhyme of the 1930s

"Who will ever ask in three or five hundred years' time whether a Fraulein Muller or Schulze was unhappy?" -Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer of the SS and Chief of the German police, circa 1941
Dedication
To Ludmilla
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The blind man taps his cane rhythmically.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Sigrid Schroder is the model German soldier's wife during World War II, except for one secret, she misses her Jewish lover, but she is not the only one with secrets, and she must choose to act on what is right and what is wrong and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two when the carefully constructed fortress of solitude she has built over the years begins to collapse.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 039915776X, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2012: While the world hardly lacks for novels about WWII, David R. Gillham’s City of Women is extraordinary for what it does not do. It does not detail the events or imagined conversations of Hitler’s Reich, and it has not a single scene of life in the death camps. Instead, it chronicles-–in detail so specific that it’s mesmerizing, but not so obviously researched as to be annoying-–life for “ordinary” Berliners at a time that was anything but. Through Heroine Sigrid Schroder, a German wife drawn into an affair with a Jew, Gillham shows us a world in which not all Germans are bad, not all Jews are victims, and loyalty is a fiction, the grimmest of fairy tales. -–Sara Nelson

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:17 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Hiding her clandestine activities behind the persona of a model Nazi soldier's wife at the height of World War II, Sigrid Schroeder dreams of her former Jewish lover and risks everything to hide a mother and two young children who she believes might be her lover's family.… (more)

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