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The Women in the Castle
Cover of The Women in the Castle
The Women in the Castle
A Novel
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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"Moving . . . surprises and devastates."—New York Times Book Review

"A masterful epic."—People magazine

"Mesmerizing . . . The Women in the Castle stands tall among the literature that reveals new truths about one of history's most tragic eras."—USA Today

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany's defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband's ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband's brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin's mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister's wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband's resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah's Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck's evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"Moving . . . surprises and devastates."—New York Times Book Review

"A masterful epic."—People magazine

"Mesmerizing . . . The Women in the Castle stands tall among the literature that reveals new truths about one of history's most tragic eras."—USA Today

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany's defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband's ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband's brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin's mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister's wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband's resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah's Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck's evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

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About the Author-
  • Jessica Shattuck is the award-winning author of The Hazards of Good Breeding, which was a New York Times Notable Book and finalist for the PEN/Winship Award, and Perfect Life. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New Yorker, Glamour, Mother Jones, Wired, and The Believer, among other publications. A graduate of Harvard University, she received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives with her husband and three children in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 27, 2017
    Shattuck (The Hazards of Good Breeding) explores the lives of three widows at the tail end of World War II in this redemptive tale. Marianne von Lingenfels, whose husband was one of many resisters murdered in a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler, returns to the beautiful but dilapidated Bavarian castle, Burg Lingenfels, as the war comes to an end. At the outset of the war she had promised her friend, another resister, that she would watch over his wife Benita and their child if anything happened to him. Seeking safety in numbers after the death of husbands, Marianne invites Benita to live with her—as well as another widow, Ania, and her two sons. As new chapters in their lives are written, the women come to rely on each other as a makeshift family—much as the entire country, reeling after the horrors of the war, must imagine a new future and forge a new identity. Shattuck’s latest has an intricately woven narrative with frequent plot twists that will shock and please. The quotidian focus of the story, falling on the period just after the war, provides a unique glimpse into what the average German was and was not aware of during World War II’s darkest months. Shattuck’s own German heritage and knack for historical details adds to the realism of the tale. A beautiful story of survival, love, and forgiveness. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment.

  • Kirkus

    January 15, 2017
    Three German "widow[s] of the resistance," who spend time together at a run-down castle when World War II ends, embody aspects of the catastrophe that overcame their country.Germany, 1945: in this devastated landscape where "no one was innocent," there is misery for all and plenty to spare. Guilt, shame, suffering, and silence go hand in hand as the German people emerge from war and fascism, and Europe is awash with displaced persons. Shattuck's (Perfect Life, 2009, etc.) third novel centers on the von Lingenfels castle, a place of aristocratic indulgence in prewar years, now a ruined shell owned by Marianne von Lingenfels, the widow of Albrecht, one of a group of men who failed in an attempt to assassinate Hitler and were hanged. It's this group which links Marianne to the two other women and their children, whom she invites to the castle for shelter: Benita Fledermann, widow of the charismatic Constantine, who survived the Russian occupation of Berlin but paid a heavy price; and Ania Grabarek, who walked west, out of the wreckage of Poland, with her two sons and is also keeping secrets about what she has seen and done. In this primer about how evil invades then corrupts normal existence, Shattuck delivers simple, stark lessons on personal responsibility and morality. Inevitably, it makes for a dark tale, more a chronology of three overlapping, contaminated, emblematic lives than a plot. Some final uplift does arrive, however, via the views of the next generation, which apply a useful layer of distance and some hope on the sins of the fathers--and mothers. Neither romantic nor heroic, Shattuck's new novel seems atypical of current World War II fiction but makes sincere, evocative use of family history to explore complicity and the long arc of individual responses to a mass crime.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2016
    Drawing on her research regarding the widows of German resisters during World War II, plus the experiences of her grandparents, Shattuck explores the lives of ordinary Germans after World War II. Marianne von Lingenfels keeps a promise to her husband, who was among those plotting to assassinate Hitler in July 1944, by sheltering the widows and children of his fellow conspirators at her near-ruined Bavarian castle. But their suffering during the war does not necessarily hold them together, and each woman made painful choices that still resonate. With a 150,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Newsweek "If you love historical fiction, this is your must-read book: It's captivating, fascinating, and incredibly faithful to the events as they happened, and Jessica Shattuck reveals an entirely new side of what it's like to be a woman in wartime."
  • New York Times Book Review "Moving . . . Shattuck's achievement—beyond unfolding a plot that surprises and devastates—is in her subtle exploration of what a moral righteousness looks like in the aftermath of the war, when communities and lives must be rebuilt, together."
  • People Magazine "A masterful epic."
  • Marie Claire "A poignant, World War II page-turner."
  • USA Today "Offers a mesmerizing new look at the aftermath of the war . . . with insight and empathy, The Women in the Castle stands tall among the literature that reveals new truths about one of history's most tragic eras."
  • Redbook Magazine, 20 Books By Women You Must Read This Spring "If you're a historical fiction fan, this will be your new favorite novel of 2017. It's so emotionally powerful there's a chance the literary-induced chills will stay with you well into summer."
  • Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Before the War and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand "Fans of The Nightingale and other classic World War II stories will fall in love with this compelling new perspective on women at war."
  • Bustle "Riveting and emotional, The Women in the Castle is a WWII story like you've never seen before."
  • The Skimm "For your friend who loves a good war drama. About a woman who plays castle with other war widows across Germany post WWII."
  • Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Songs of Willow Frost "A virtuoso of time and place, Jessica Shattuck has created a heart-smashingly good story that will change the way you look at current events, and leave you asking, 'What would I do if I were in these characters' shoes?' Powerful and prescient, an important book everyone should read."
  • New York Post "A must-read!"
  • Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest "A vivid and gripping tale of endurance in the wake of World War II. . . . The writing is magnificent, as is Shattuck's ability to render unimaginable circumstances with tremendous clarity and compassion. A joy to read, this is a beautiful and important book."
  • Janice Y.K. Lee, New York Times bestselling author of The Piano Teacher and The Expatriates "I couldn't put Jessica Shattuck's gorgeous novel down, an intricate and intimate portrait of the lives of three women whose fates draw them together in WWII Germany. A wonderful, wonderful read."
  • Jill McCorkle, New York Times bestselling author of Life After Life "Vivid and beautifully written . . . With extraordinary skill, knowledge, and insight, Jessica Shattuck transports us to Germany in the aftermath of World War II and into the lives of three powerfully drawn and memorable women. Compelling and very satisfying."
  • Booklist (starred review) "The reader is fully immersed in the experiences of these women, the choices they make, and the burdens they carry. . . . a rich, potent, fluently written tale of endurance and survival."
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Well-researched . . . Shattuck manages to be both morally tough-minded and remarkably empathetic."
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