Wednesday, August 23, 2017

THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE by Jessica Shattuck

Marianne is a woman of high integrity who expects the same from everyone else in Nazi Germany.  Her husband and Marianne’s longtime friend Connie (a man) are resisters who die in a plot to assassinate Hitler.  Marianne tracks down Benita, Connie’s wife, and their son Martin and brings them to her family’s castle to wait out the aftermath of the war.  Then Ania and her two boys join the household, where Ania brings much-need cooking skills and a practical nature.  Over the course of the next few years, the women grow closer, but Ania and Benita’s secrets that eventually come to light appall the judgmental Marianne, causing rifts that may never be mended.  Benita is beautiful, but we never fully understand, nor does Marianne, what else, if anything, Connie saw in her, because she comes across as shallow.  She is also resentful that Connie died in a plot she was unaware of and didn’t necessarily support.  As for Ania, Marianne would never have taken her in had she known the truth about her past.  The author takes a stab at explaining why Germans were so enthralled with Hitler, particularly before he began systematically exterminating Jews.  As with so many books of this sort, the ending entails a reunion of sorts.  I’ve seen reviews that likened this book to Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, and, although I was not overly impressed by either book, at least the writing here is much better.  The sentences are not so stubby, but the characters don’t really come to life.  Marianne and Benita are one-dimensional.  Ania is a more complicated character, but her role in the novel trails off at the end.

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