A war, three widows, and secrets no one wants to share
Jessica Shattuck’s The Women in the Castle, one of this spring’s most anticipated novels, tells the story of a Bavarian castle and the women and children who take refuge there during the waning days of World War II.
The women of the castle are the widows of resisters who paid for their actions during the war with their lives. Marianne von Lingenfels promised to care for the wives of the resisters who took part in the July 1944 plot to kill Adolf Hitler and sets out to find the widows and their families.
Each found widow, and Lingenfels herself, has guilt over their own actions during the war. And, there is little sympathy to be found in the deprivations of post-war Germany.
Shattuck told NPR that the book has roots in her childhood.
“My mother was German, so I grew up going to visit my grandparents in the summers, and I also grew up with a very strong sense of shame about being half German. … I loved going there and I loved my grandparents, but I also knew there was a very dark history, and I felt very conflicted about that.”
The Women in the Castle opens under twinkling lights at the annual harvest party at castle Burg Lingenfels, in Germany, in 1938. This scene by Shattuck sets up a contrast to the almost ruined castle after the war – the castle that the women and children finds return to.
How did the women survive the war? Are they really who they say they are? And what are they hiding?
All these questions are answered with stunning clarity throughout the novel. Shattuck revelations are seamless and keep the reader hooked through the novel.
Definitely one you don’t want to end!