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.
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.
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: ★★★★★/