I just finished reading The Women in the Castle: A Novel, a solid addition to the WWII fiction genre that filled the void since I enjoyed The Nightingale and several others from the past few years.

In fact I am working on a WWII fiction reading list and I am going to keep this post short so I can get back to compiling that before Memorial Day! I have been compiling this reading list for several months now but keep wanting to “add one more” to the list…

The beginning of this new novel by Jessica Shattuck reminded me of Belgravia, where socialites are enjoying a party – this time in a Bavarian castle – and love is in the air. But war is on the horizon, so the fun is short lived and duty calls both soldiers and resistors away.

Reminiscent of Lilac Girls and some others where multiple women’s stories coincide, the book’s heroine is Marianne, the hostess and eventual heir of the castle.  So after the Nazis fall, she reunites and provides a home for two other widows of her husband’s resistance movement. Each women maneuvers their pasts and secrets as they try to survive, love, manage their children, and forgive in the aftermath of the horror they have witnessed and have now been made aware.

As many of the other books, the story ends in the present day, which always makes for an interesting and emotional wrap-up.

The book reads a bit heavier than some of the others of the genre. There is definitely background information and knowledge of the time frame that is assumed a reader knows.  A map of Germany would be helpful to follow it all.

Although it didn’t move me to as many tears or emotions as some of the other books I’ve mentioned, I still really liked it and believe it provides additional perspectives we have not read as much of – German resistance and even Nazi cooperators. And also Germany after the war and how many people didn’t immediately believe (as Marianne did) that the horrors were really as horrific as they were.

My favorite part was a scene after the war when Marianne and her makeshift family are attending a concert and hearing live music for the first time in years. I heard Beethoven’s Ninth on these pages.

“Years later, as a professor, Martin would try to find the words to articulate the power of togetherness in a world where togetherness had been corrupted–and to explore the effect of the music, the surprising lengths the people had gone to to hear it and to play it, as evidence that music, and art in general, are basic requirements of the human soul. Not a luxury but a compulsion. He will think of it every time he goes to a museum or a concert or a play with a long line of people waiting to get inside.”

Related post: The music in All The Light You Cannot See

In spite of this particular beautiful part, I appreciated that the book seemed real in that not all endings are happy.

I realize I sound a bit critical critical above and I don’t mean to be; it’s just hard not to compare this with SO MANY OTHER books that are in a similar setting, but if you’re looking for the latest good read in the genre here it is!

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