The Women in the Castle

A dramatic, engrossing historical novel, set primarily in post-WWII Germany, The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck, tells the intertwined stories of three widows whose husbands were involved in a failed conspiracy to assassinate Adolph Hitler. The aristocratic Marianne promised her husband that she would find and help the other wives of conspirators, so she tracks down the beautiful and naive Benita, wife of her beloved childhood friend. She finds her in the Soviet sector of Berlin, broken by the loss of her son and forced to prostitute herself to survive. The unstoppable Marianne then rescues the son from a Nazi reeducation home and takes them both back to her family’s ancient crumbling castle in the woods, along with another resister’s widow, Ania, who has been scraping by with her two sons in a desolate refugee camp. Skipping backward and forward in time, we learn of Ania’s and Benita’s ordeals, their attempts to rebuild their lives, and the permanent, brutal legacy of the war. Guilt, survival, forgiveness, and love give the novel its meaning.

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