The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck-Review

Title: The Women in the Castle
 Jessica Shattuck
Release Date: 
April 4, 2017

Description from Goodreads: 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 resistor 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 naïve Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resistor’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.

Review: There are many books on WWII and we all know a lot about what people went through during the war, but what happened after the war was over? That part of history seems to be pushed to the side when we learn of the war, but for Germans, that was a very difficult time. The Women in the Castle tells the story of three women who come together to raise their children and to heal after the war is over.

This is such a wonderful book. I loved that the main part of the book was post-war but there were flashbacks to each woman before and during the war to give you insight into who these women really are. Each of these amazing women was completely different, and yet at a time when each of them needed something, they were there for each other.

I was drawn in from the first page and didn’t want to put this book down. The writing was so vivid, I truly felt as though I was in the story myself. The characters were relatable and I just wanted to reach out and help them, and occasionally knock some sense into them. Each of them showed a unique experience during the war and Hitler’s regime that sheds some light on what life was like back then for Germans.

After reading this book, I feel as though I understand more of what it was probably like before the war living in Germany and listening to Hitler. He obviously was able to convince most Germans that he had good intentions, that through him, Germany would become a great nation, and to a country beaten down by WWI, this was something exciting.  I had never really given much thought to that time in history.

I would recommend this book to anyone. This is similar to Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale but at the same time completely different. If you loved that book, you will love this one as well.

*I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required. All opinions are my own.*


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