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The Women in the Castle: A Novel by Jessica…

The Women in the Castle: A Novel (2017)

by Jessica Shattuck

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“The Women in the Castle” tells the story of how three German women were thrown together and survived WWII. Aptly named, these women camped out in a castle previously in main character Marianne’s family. Marianne was a force to be reckoned with from the beginning. In a time where women were kept in the dark about “men’s work,” Marianne was the only wife to know about her husband’s plan to take down Hitler.

Marianne’s husband Albrecht worked with a large group of like-minded men within Germany that formed a resistance beneath Hitler’s rule. When it became clear that Hitler could not be stopped, they set out to assassinate them. Their failed attempt triggered their executions and Marianne’s endeavor to protect the wives of the other resistors in Albrecht’s network. Marianne brings together two other women – Benita and Ania – and their respective children. This makeshift family grew together over the years and were bound together long after the war ended.

An acclaimed author, Jessica Shattuck delved into a narrative that has rarely been discussed. Most novels focus on the allies and those who opposed Hitler, but very few that I’ve read so far go behind enemy lines to talk about life from a German standpoint, particularly for a group of women from various backgrounds.

Of course, “The Women in the Castle” was exceedingly compared to “The Nightingale.” “The Nightingale” is quite possibly my all-time favorite book, but this comparison has increasingly become a pet peeve of mine because it sets up unrealistically high expectations and the only common thread is that they are both novels about women surviving during WWII.

The two books are wholly different and “The Women in the Castle” focuses more on family and friendship than heroic acts of defiance. It’s easy to understand how Marianne and “her women” became a family during the war, but the most interesting part of this novel to me was the years after the war and the friendships that developed. Seeing how each woman changed, evolved, and tried to move on from their pasts was incredibly moving and realistic. The story lagged at times going into an in-depth history lesson, but one that is so important to read and understand because it is so seldom considered.

For this and other reviews: https://thebookbasics.wordpress.com/ ( )
  CInacio | Mar 29, 2017 |
Oh what a touching story. I felt so much for these women. This was such a touching story. One woman had an idea of what her of what her husband was doing but she she kept it in the back of her mind. She said "no way, this was not happening in my world". Another wife was so innocent and young, that she had no idea that she had no idea that this was even going on. The final wife was aware, shocked, and appalled and for that reason she took her two boys and left.

Such was the life that these three women were together after their husbands were gone, either through death or because they left them. Their stories are sorted and the lady of the castle (Marianne) took them in. Either through the knowing of their husband such as the case of Benita, the wife of her childhood friend, Martin. And Ania, the wife of another resistor who Marianne does not recall the name but still admits her to the castle.

These three ladies bond and become friends while the war goes on around them. Together they raise their children and become a family as such. The bond that they form lasts a lifetime for all of them and the book is the story of these three women. While they are together and their lives before they come together.

It is a very touching and moving story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was entertaining, moving, mesmerizing, haunting, chilling and I really grew to like these characters immensely.

Huge thanks to Bonnier Zaffre for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest unbiased review. ( )
  debkrenzer | Mar 28, 2017 |
Two of the biggest publishing sensations of the past few years are Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale and the Pulitzer Prize-winning All The Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Both dealt with people trapped by the horrors of WWII in France and Germany.

Jessica Shattuck's new novel, The Women In The Castle, tackles that same era and will definitely appeal to readers who were so moved by those two books.

The story opens in November of 1938 at Burg Lingenfels, a castle in Bavaria, where the Countess' annual harvest party is about to begin. We meet Marianne von Lingelfels, the Countess' niece-in-law, who will act as hostess to the party. She is married to Albrecht von Lingelfels who fears that the Nazi regime and Adolf Hitler have become too powerful.

Albrecht is disgusted by the actions of Hitler, and actively participates in the resistance movement along with others, including Connie Fledermann, a man who is always the charming life-of-the-party and Marianne's dear friend. Connie is married to the beautiful, young Benita, and if Marianne admits it, she is a little jealous.

The action moves back and forth in time, and a few years later we find Marianne and her young children living in the castle, a shadow of its former grand self. Marianne has promised Connie that she take care of Benita and their young son, and along the way also picks up Ania, a refugee with her three children.

The three women and their children band together to survive the horrors and deprevations of war. We learn where Benita and Ania were before they came to Burg Lingenfels, and what they had to do to survive.

We see the horrors of war through their eyes, and some of the scenes are so jarring, such as the one of Ania and her friend seeing what they believe to be sacks of food piled high on open air wagons. As it gets closer they realize that the sacks are actually people. There are more than a few heartbreaking scenes in this searing novel.

The story moves along, following the war's end and what happens to those who survive. Some do their best to move on, forget the past, while others are haunted too much. Marianne does her best to live up to her high principles, even if that hurts those she loves, while others do whatever it takes to survive. Which way is right? That is the big question to be answered.

The women face many moral dilemmas, and the reader is left to wonder what she may have done in their situations. Shattuck does an admirable job of putting the reader in their shoes, making us identify with these women, creating empathy.

The Women In The Castle is a haunting story, one that you cannot rush through, but must read and contemplate. These characters' stories will stay with you for a very long time. Fans of Chris Bohjalian's The Sandcastle Girls and David Gillam's City of Women should put this one on your TBR list as well. ( )
  bookchickdi | Mar 28, 2017 |
Before,​ during​,​ and after the war Marianne was there to support everyone even though she had lost everything except her ​castle and her children.

Marianne previously lived in a castle with her husband, Albrecht and her children before the Germans took it over. Her ​husband was a member of the resistance but was killed by the Germans along with other members. His request was for Marianne to take care of the families of other members if he and his fellow members were killed.

Marianne complied with her husband's wishes and found two women including Benita who had married a man Marianne actually had loved at one time and who was a family friend.

These women and their children lived together and endured the hardships after the war as well as sharing their lives before and during the war.

Marianne was an organizer, Benita was a follower, and Ania was a great help to Marianne. All three women had endured a lot and were there for each other in their own way as they recovered after the war.

THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE gives us insight into how families lived in Europe before, during, and after Hitler's regime. ​The book ends with the year 1991.​

THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE is well written, well researched, and with authentic characters and descriptions that draw you in...descriptions that allow you to share the experiences every character is dealing with whether good or bad.​ Some of the experiences are quite grizzly.​

It took me a few chapters to get connected and to warm up to the characters, but once I did, I became fully involved with their lives as well as becoming familiar with yet another piece of WWII's history.

Historical fiction fans and women's fiction fans will love THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE. Be prepared for a heart wrenching, but very thought-provoking read.

The historical aspect and the friendships between the three women draw the reader in and keep the pages turning while you also don't want the book to end. 4/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.​ ( )
  SilversReviews | Mar 28, 2017 |
I received this book free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

This book was a great read from the start. The character jump right off the page with there realism and actions as well as their descriptions. Marianne is the sweet leader of everyone and she is married to her exact opposite. A man who is a perfectionist and contemplates everything while missing the daily activities. The countess is a women after my own heart with her bossiness and risky parties. throughout the story you will meet many other women, children and men who again follow this realistic pattern. The sentence structure was easy to read aloud as well as kept you from stumbling over words. It varied from long complex sentences to short simple ones. I love the imagery of the castle during the rain storm and how it described each feature such as desks and chairs. I will be lending this book to my grandmother to read. I think anyone could easily fall in love with this book. The Rough cut edges are by far my favorite part about this book, had it been hard cover, I would easily mistake it for an older book and one of maybe a time before this one. I can add this to my list of well written, highly thought out and simply amazing to my list of books I could not put down. ( )
  Suzanne.Marble | Mar 21, 2017 |
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In memory of my mother, Petra Tolle Shattuck, and my grandmother, Anneliese Tolle
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The day of the countess's famous harvest party began with a driving rain that hammered down on all the ancient von Lingenfels castle's sore spots - springing leaks, dampening floors, and turning its yellow façade a slick, beetle-like black.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062563661, Hardcover)

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

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 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 she 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, 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.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 28 Oct 2016 09:57:52 -0400)

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