Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow, HarperCollins Publishers. March 28, 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II.
Rating: Very good.
The synopsis on the back cover of the book states the book is “set at the end of World War II.” The Women in the Castle shifts back and forth in time in the story. The time periods are as far back as 1923, and as recent as 1991. Most of the story is 1945 and 1950.
Marianne von Lingenfels’s husband is Albrecht. They have three children. Albrecht is a resister of Hitler and Nazi Germany. A failed plot to kill Hitler places her husband in the hands of his enemies and subsequent death. Marianne accepts the responsibility to care for the wives and children of the other resistors who perished. A castle belonging to Albrecht’s family is the fortress for the women and children.
The three women in the story are Marianne, Benita, and Ania. The three women are vastly different from each other. It’s possible the three women represent varying aspects of German women during World War II. And, the women contribute three unique stories.
Marianne is mature. She is a devoted wife and mother. She is faithful and responsible. She is trustworthy. She sees past emotion and fear, and can think clearly and rationally.
Benita is a young woman. She is a beautiful girl and enjoys her feminine charms. The war and post war took away her husband, youth, nationalism and pride.
Ania’s had limited contact with the Jewish population; and problems in the home take her eyes away from the murderous atrocities happening to the Jews. Her thrust is to survive for the sake of her children.
The aspect I liked best about the story is the sharp comparison between Marianne and Benita. They are at war because of their strong differences. Each one trying to understand and control the other.
A second aspect I liked is through Ania’s eyes I had a perspective of a German woman’s views during World War II and post war: the Holocaust, the Jews, the early years of the Nazi Party, feelings about Hitler, the wife of a German soldier, and survival amid the chaos of 1945.
It was difficult for me to like Benita. I have empathy for her but did not understand her feelings and choices. I did not want to throw darts at her but she placed a heavy weight on the “being in love and adored.” I believe it is possible this was a source of escape.
I loved the conclusion. I did not want The Women in the Castle to be a novel that did not have closure. It is not neat and tidy but the story has a solid rest.