The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle

by Jessica Shattick

Overview: 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.

Debbie Weiss (11/14/17): I agree with Faith that this was a very interesting book, well researched by the author, Jessica Shattuck. I saw Jessica speak at the Decatur Book Festival this past Labor Day Weekend and I was impressed with her intelligence and her dedication to her writing. The story's main character is Marianne von Lingefels, whose husband was active in the resistance during the war. She had promised him that if he died, she would seek out and care for other widows of fellow resisters and their children. She keeps her promise, and we follow the lives of Marianne, Benita and Ania during and after the war. At first, they all live in the run down castle that belonged to Marianne's husband's family. After the war, they go their own ways, but their lives will forever be intertwined with each other. This was a well-written and enjoyable book.  
Rating: ****

Faith Bowers (07/11/17): This is her best novel to date because it is historical fiction along with the character development of three very different women thrown together because of their husbands' involvement with the German resistance of Hitler.  There is the Prussian aristocrat Marianne Von Lingenfels who owns the defunct castle. There is working class beautiful Benita who marries Marianne’s best childhood friend and has a son by him. And then there is Ania with two boys, who’s story we are slow to understand.  How they help themselves, help others and live life in Germany past WW2 is an unusual topic of history. They are all Germans and still have to defend their families from post WW 2 trauma.

Shattuck writes concisely and tells a good story. You can see all the research required to make this fiction feel real. I like learning of another facet of WW2. 
Rating: ****

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