The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

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    Jessica Shattuck looks into one of the most devastating time period that mankind has ever known through a completely fresh scope. Set before, during and after World War II, The Women in the Castle brings to light the story of three women whose lives have known different facets of the war that raged on over a couple of long and dreadful years. It is under the same roof of Burg Lingenfels, a castle that was once known to host highly placed Germans, that the paths of these women will cross and their stories are unwrapped, stripped to their bones and exhibited in a shocking, yet beautiful manner. Jessica Shattuck brings to life three characters with their own personalities, own tragedies, own dreams and own decisions. By alternating between characters, she offers us a mesmerizing and detailed look at the highly contrasting visions that individuals shared during the war. Through impeccable writing, she investigates the thought processes of people who had followed ideals that were hammered into them by the culture that represented them and cleverly exposes societal values that were spread among the masses. From discerning good and bad to love and hate, The Women in the Castle is the story of three women who have fought their own war during the toughest moments of World War II and how they reconcile with their own past words and actions.

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    The author does a meticulous job in diving into the lives of these three women and their influence upon each other and their surroundings. Marianne von Lingenfels is the central character that serves as the pillar of confidence, survival and resistance. Wife of a resistor who’s fate has been sealed upon failing an assassination that would’ve changed history, she’s quickly put on a mission to find and protect the wives of the resistors until the end of the war. This is where the story launches itself in a intricate and enthralling adventure that interweaves the lives of Marianne, Benita and Ania. As the story sets itself up by bringing together all these women and their children who were dispersed to different regions under various circumstances, you quickly begin to see that their struggle for a better future will be tainted and rendered laborious by a past that will never seize to crawl out of the shadows and trouble them like nothing ever has before. Jessica Shattuck does an impeccable job in alternating between the past and the present to give her readers better insight in the lives of her characters. The flashback sequences also gives readers a better comprehension of the dilemmas and the decisions that haunt every character. In the end, no one is what they seem to be and everyone has something to hide. Living in lies, secrets and promises are what drives these characters to build some of the most complex relationships that literature will have ever known.

    The writing alone succeeds in recreating the dark and heavy atmosphere of the period. The words captures your soul in a tight and relentless grip. The instant you enter the world, you’re engulfed in a setting that feels unique and distinctive to the era. The inclusion of German words and expressions also greatly help in the immersion and easily sweeps you off your feet into a time and place where nothing was easy and everything had to be fought for. There isn’t a moment throughout this book where you’ll want to be unshackled and set free from the stories of these women. You will find a growing urge to learn the secrets that weigh on the shoulders of every character and wish to unburden each of them of the lives they have been condemned to live. The bond that is conjured between the reader and the characters sometimes almost feel instantaneous and unbreakable. In fact, Jessica Shattuck does a formidable job in giving every character their own personality, their own motivations and their own perception of war and of people. A master of the pen, she has the ability to make any personage authentic, believable and greatly memorable. It doesn’t matter if it is a child that doesn’t yet understand the gravity of his situation or a German who does despicable things in order to survive, The Women in the Castle showcases a diversified and complex array of characters that embody different prejudices and perceptions. It’s upon the reveal of the story behind every decision that you truly comprehend that war is no simple matter and life is far more complex than yes or no.

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    The Women in the Castle is a tour de force in a sea of historical fiction. Its exploration of uncharted territory by bringing forth a whole new angle to stories set in World War II lifts this book among the best pieces of literature out there. The depth it probes by looking at themes that stretches as far as forgiveness and redemption leaves you bewildered by the story. There isn’t a character in this book that doesn’t leave an impression on you and it’s how it is done that makes this book such a brilliant tale. I loved how it managed to do such a impressive job in focusing on the details and little gestures that mean so much in the context they are done. When the author is able to convey the importance of these little things that are deprived from individuals during a time of war or recovery, you just have to take a moment of your time to give a standing ovation for the author. The Women in the Castle delves into the human condition in a stunning fashion. The humanity that shines through the words leaves you in awe at the somber story of Marianne, Benita and Ania. It is in their efforts to fight the past in hopes for a better future that makes The Women in the Castle one of the most touching and fascinating stories out there.


THANK YOU TO HARPERCOLLINS CANADA FOR SENDING ME AN ADVANCE COPY FOR REVIEW!

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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★★/

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14 thoughts on “The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

  1. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    Wow this sounds like a wonderful book Lashaan. I haven’t read much historical fiction, it’s not really a genre I find myself interested in a lot of the time, but the books I have read from it I’ve loved, and weirdly enough they’re pretty much all books that have centered around World War II. This is definitely going to be an automatic add to my to-read list. The characters all sound amazing and I’m really glad you found it to be a fresh take on World War II as well, telling a new story almost.
    Great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan and Trang (Bookidote) says:

      Yoooooo! I think most of the historical fictions I’ve read so far were set in World War II too! 😛 It doesn’t bother me that much since it is a period with so many elements that can be so brilliantly integrated to make a perfect story. I do believe it is something different from what you’d usually get since it heavily centers around the post-WWII period while jumping backwards in time for flashback moments that give more details on the characters. I’m really happy to hear your interest since I feel like these type of stories are harder to reach the public! Thank you so much for checking out my review and for your kind words! 😛

      – Lashaan

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        Oh definitely, there’s so much that can be written about that time in history that there are never two books that are too similar. None of the history books I’ve read, despite being in the same time period, are at all similar to one another.
        Ohh, that does sound interesting, and it kind of makes me want to get started on this book even sooner simply because it’s focuses on the aftermath of the war and I haven’t seen much of that in historical fiction.
        That’s all right, I’ll try and get around to this one soon-ish. I definitely feel in the mood to pick up a historical book again! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    I have terrible luck with historical fiction set around WWII. In fact, I recently just swore them off, but now you have convinced me that I just have not had the right experience! Adding this to my Amazon list. It sounds so well developed and atmospheric 🙂 Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan and Trang (Bookidote) says:

      I think I’m pretty lucky with the historical fictions I read. I really love it when the author succeeds in making it feel like you’re really in that period of time and even makes you want to read more on the real events/people of that time. It’s probably why historical fictions set in WWII always grab my attention since it is one of those wars that has so many stories within that period. I’m really glad to hear that this one has caught your attention, and hopefully it will revive your hope in this genre! What did you read that made you want to stay clear from them though? Curious to know if it’s actually something I know or have wanted to read for quite some time. 😀

      – Lashaan

      Liked by 1 person

      • Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

        I have actually been back and forth with several historical fictions centered around WWII and never connected. I will have to put together a list for you sometime 😉 I tend to prefer more of the sagas, or those further back in medieval or middle ages. I have not read any for a while. Maybe I will start one soon!

        Liked by 1 person

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