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Summary

Summary

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.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The last party at the ancient von Lingenfels castle is the occasion of a meeting of a group that is committed to resisting the Nazis. Among them is Marianne von Lingenfels' husband. Another resister is her childhood sweetheart, who extracts from her a promise to look after Benita, his pregnant wife-to-be. When the resisters are executed in 1944 for their part in the plot to assassinate Hitler, Marianne rescues Benita and her son from dire conditions in Berlin and takes them to the castle to live with her and her own three children. Later, they are joined by Ania, who has been identified as another resister's widow and has fled with her two sons from the Russian advance in the east. The narrative unfolds in a fluid way, with most of the action taking place in 1945, when the women struggle through the harrowing last days of the war, and 1950, when they adjust to new, postwar realities. The reader is fully immersed in the experiences of these women, the choices they make, and the burdens they carry. Shattuck (Perfect Life, 2009) has crafted a rich, potent, fluently written tale of endurance and survival.--Quinn, Mary Ellen Copyright 2017 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Shattuck (The Hazards of Good Breeding) explores the lives of three widows at the tail end of World War II in this redemptive tale. Marianne von Lingenfels, whose husband was one of many resisters murdered in a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler, returns to the beautiful but dilapidated Bavarian castle, Burg Lingenfels, as the war comes to an end. At the outset of the war she had promised her friend, another resister, that she would watch over his wife Benita and their child if anything happened to him. Seeking safety in numbers after the death of husbands, Marianne invites Benita to live with her-as well as another widow, Ania, and her two sons. As new chapters in their lives are written, the women come to rely on each other as a makeshift family-much as the entire country, reeling after the horrors of the war, must imagine a new future and forge a new identity. Shattuck's latest has an intricately woven narrative with frequent plot twists that will shock and please. The quotidian focus of the story, falling on the period just after the war, provides a unique glimpse into what the average German was and was not aware of during World War II's darkest months. Shattuck's own German heritage and knack for historical details adds to the realism of the tale. A beautiful story of survival, love, and forgiveness. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Inspired by the Shattuck's (The Hazards of Good Breeding) own grandparents' experience during World War II, this novel follows three German women before, during, and after Hitler's rule. Marianne is the widow of a Resistance leader whose failed attempt to kill the Führer leads her, as an act of personal atonement, to shelter the wives and children of his fellow conspirators within the walls of her family's Bavarian castle. Benita, one of those widows, reluctantly joins this refuge, silently suffering from her war experience until a new love interest ignites tension between her and Marianne. Their rift is amplified by the presence of Ania, the third widow in the castle, whose secrets unravel as she tries to remarry and protect her children. The story line continues through multiple decades, until a reunion forces the three women to reconcile their past behavior toward one another. There are too many ideas in this novel; as each emotional arc builds, the narrative abruptly switches to another character's voice, confusing the reader. Ania's story is most compelling, given her hidden identity, but readers will have to triangulate numerous characters and narrative devices before reaching her reckoning. VERDICT Fans of World War II fiction may want to consider. [See -Prepub Alert, 10/31/16; library marketing.]-Tina Panik, Avon Free P.L., CT © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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