INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
GoodReads Choice Awards Semifinalist
"Moving . . . a plot that 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.
Jessica Shattuck is the New York Times bestselling author of The Women in the Castle, The Hazards of Good Breeding, 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, The New Yorker, Glamour, Mother Jones, and Wired, among other publications.
Date of Birth:April 2, 1972
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:B.A. Harvard College, 1994; M.F.A. in Writing, Columbia University, 2001
Shattuck's characters represent the range of responses to fascism. Her achievementbeyond unfolding a plot that surprises and devastatesis in her subtle exploration of what a moral righteousness like Marianne's looks like in the aftermath of war, when communities and lives must be rebuilt, together.The New York Times Book Review - Mary Pols
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. (Apr.)
Inspired by the Shattuck's (The Hazards of Good Breeding) own grandparents' experience during World War II, this novel follows three German women before, during, and after Hitler's rule. Marianne is the widow of a Resistance leader whose failed attempt to kill the Führer leads her, as an act of personal atonement, to shelter the wives and children of his fellow conspirators within the walls of her family's Bavarian castle. Benita, one of those widows, reluctantly joins this refuge, silently suffering from her war experience until a new love interest ignites tension between her and Marianne. Their rift is amplified by the presence of Ania, the third widow in the castle, whose secrets unravel as she tries to remarry and protect her children. The story line continues through multiple decades, until a reunion forces the three women to reconcile their past behavior toward one another. There are too many ideas in this novel; as each emotional arc builds, the narrative abruptly switches to another character's voice, confusing the reader. Ania's story is most compelling, given her hidden identity, but readers will have to triangulate numerous characters and narrative devices before reaching her reckoning. VERDICT Fans of World War II fiction may want to consider. [See Prepub Alert, 10/31/16; library marketing.]—Tina Panik, Avon Free P.L., CT
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.
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.Redbook Magazine
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.Booklist (starred review)
Fans of The Nightingale and other classic World War II stories will fall in love with this compelling new perspective on women at war.Helen Simonson
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.Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
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.Janice Y.K. Lee
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.Jamie Ford
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.Jill McCorkle
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.Newsweek
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.New York Times Book Review
A masterful epic.People Magazine
A poignant, World War II page-turner.Marie Claire
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.USA Today
Riveting and emotional, The Women in the Castle is a WWII story like you’ve never seen before.Bustle
For your friend who loves a good war drama. About a woman who plays castle with other war widows across Germany post WWII.The Skimm
A must-read!New York Post
Well-researched . . . Shattuck manages to be both morally tough-minded and remarkably empathetic.Milwaukee Journal Sentinel