Book review: “The Women in the Castle” by Jessica Shattuck

by Rebecca Henderson Palmer on September 5, 2017

As Hitler’s true atrocities dawn on the German public, Marianne von Lingenfels, her husband, and their band of resisters make plans to thwart the Nazis’ plans, but the end of the war finds Marianne widowed, her husband executed after he participated in a foiled plot to assassinate the Fuhrer. Now largely on her own in a neglected Bavarian castle, Marianne must raise her children and the son of her childhood friend amidst the rubble. Marianne – a woman of high ideals, great intellect, and culture – must confront the grayer aspects of life, the harsh realities that most people of her background and learning prefer to ignore. With her is the beautiful, headstrong Benita who must confront her late husband’s legacy while reconnecting with their son Martin. And then there’s the secretive Ania and her two boys, whose past comes to haunt them all even after the war has ended. Decades later, when their children have become parents and grandparents, Marianne reflects back on that time in the castle and realizes what an incredible journey their story has been.

I’m not sure there are many women who have not undergone a shift similar to Marianne’s at some point during her life – the time when you realize that the good/bad, light/dark, right/wrong lessons of your past do not reflect reality as you go through life. That there may be goodness in “bad” people, that legacies are not as uncomplicated as we’d like them to be, that someone you vehemently disagree with may have a point, and the friend that rashly intervenes may still have the best of intentions. This is about the lies and stories we women tell ourselves and others, the pain we withstand, the understanding that comes only with first-hand experience, and the forgiveness we eventually come to embrace. This is a vivid tale of imperfection, survival, and of the love of families and friends who have made it to the other side of great hardship; a moving tale of imperfect women doing what they must to survive and overcome.

Many thanks to NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon link is here.

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