“Hitler must die.”
This review took awhile to write because I wanted to talk about all of the things I loved about the book. This is one of my favorites, and so far it’s my favorite read of 2017.
The events in The Women in the Castle are triggered by the real-life event of a group of resistance fighters attempting to assassinate Hitler in the throws of World War II. They fail, are caught and executed, and their families are left to pick up the pieces during and after the war. The book focuses on three widows in particular: Marianne, Benita, and Ania. Three women living together in a crumbling castle, all with vastly different personalities, all with secrets to keep, must learn how to navigate post-war Germany in the 1940s and beyond. All three are widows with children to care for and reputations that, even though they are known to be resistance widows, have taken a beating simply because they are German.
I love books about aftermath. (Remember Me Like This: A Novel comes to mind and is one of my all-time favorites.) Most books tell stories that occur during a disaster, or the time leading up to a disaster. This book does delve into what happened during the war for the three women, but only so we can see what happens to them, and why, after the war. What happens after a war ends and life is expected to go back to normal? Especially when there isn’t a legitimate normal to go back to. The book really focuses on how these three women not only survived World War II in Germany, but how they survived after the war. It is very interesting to see the aftermath of the war for Germans; people were expected to go on as if nothing had happened, and your neighbor, and perhaps yourself, hadn’t committed atrocities while you turned a blind eye. There was a lot of guilt and trying to bury the guilt.
The dichotomy between beauty and horror in this book is striking. The landscape, the women, even the crumbling castle, serve as the backdrop for the horrors of the Holocaust and its aftermath.
The Women in the Castle was a much heavier book than I expected, but in the best way. It is about post-World War II, but it delves into what happened during the war too, and the effects wartime actions had on “regular” people. It is a hard look at post-war life, which in some ways, for certain people, may have been more difficult than during the war, when roles and expectations were clearly defined. It’s one of those books that had me Googling that author and the subject matter the second I finished reading it because I wanted to know even more.
I highly, highly recommend The Women in the Castle! However you can get your hands on this book, get it.
There is a good, quick interview with the author, Jessica Shattuck, HERE.