Pick up this book because “Castle” is in the title and no one can resist a crumbling castle. Then read it for the gripping story of how three very different German women navigate post WWII Germany together.
The Women in the Castle begins in Burg Lingenfels during a lavish dinner party as the threat of Hitler and the Nazi Regime becomes impossible to ignore. Marianne’s husband Albrecht, her childhood friend Connie, and other men discuss information that has just been revealed, prompting them to begin their resistance plan. When principled Marianne joins their discussion, she is recruited to take care of all the women and children left behind when the men get to work. In a private discussion with the charismatic Connie, she is asked to protect his beautiful naïve pregnant fiancé.
The narrative switches between the time periods of rising Nazi power, briefly spans the war, and concentrates on the perspectives of the wives of three resisters, Marianne, Benita, and Ania, after the war has ended and their husbands have been executed for their plot to assassinate Hitler. Marianne is determined to uphold her promise to those ill-fated men, finding Benita in a squalid apartment with Russian soldiers and Ania in a camp with her two sons. Marianne reunites Benita with her son and collects the women and children in the remains of her family castle. From there they reconcile the horrors they have experienced with their own guilt, disappointment, and secrets as life continues on for them and their children.
Shattuck just briefly touches on the atrocities of WWII and the Holocaust in writing this story. Instead, she masterfully illustrates the perspectives of German citizens who survive the war and the crimes inflicted by their countrymen and continue on after the unspeakable has occurred. Those who did whatever they could to survive must come to terms with those events. Those who were able to keep themselves above the fray must still question the sanctity of their convictions. Not everyone survives the aftermath and no one survives unscathed but for the women in the castle, there are moments of ascension through their unlikely companionship. Shattuck manages through The Women in the Castle to “find the words to articulate the power of togetherness in a world where togetherness had been corrupted”.
Beth Lehman is on the Children’s Staff at Mebane Public Library. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-563-6431.