The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle

by Jessica Shattuck


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594858423
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/28/2017
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 33,299
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

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. 


Cambridge, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

April 2, 1972

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A. Harvard College, 1994; M.F.A. in Writing, Columbia University, 2001

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The Women in the Castle: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written and full of Suspense and tears representing the Human nature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book, a must read, highly recommend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Deep and honest in provoking feelings thru out the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was written so well. It made me feel like I was there and I felt the emotions in every moment. I rarely reread a book but this will be one that I do.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought it was well written. I thought the characters were well developed and gave different perspectives of the people who lived in Germany during World War II. Well done
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed every word of this historical novel. Characters were flawed and compelling. Learning the author's personal connections to Germany in WWII only enhanced the pleasure. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully told story of the strength of woman in the hardest of times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really great novel, weaving the lives of WWII war resisters with Nazi sypathizers in a way that makes every character interesting, sympathetic and complex.
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
Well I was disappointed. Based on the rear cover's premise of what the novel, The Women in the Castle was promised to deliver and also based on the accolades from others on this novel I wanted so much more than it delivered. The first half of the novel was great, highlighting the stories of Marianne Von Lingenfels and Benita Fledermann, the wife of a childhood friend she promises to look after if anything should happen to her husband Connie. The stage is just before World War II when a group of resistors to Hitler's plan to take over Germany and eliminate those who stand against him. Her husband along with most of her friends have all been hanged for their crimes against Hitler and now she has lived up to her vow to protect their wives, fellow resistors like herself along with their children. The novel showcases both of the women's lives in a toggling between chapters of their past and present lives while living in a Bavarian castle of her husbands ancestors even though it doesn't have much of the creature comforts it once did. They eventually take on another woman Ania and her two sons who are now refugees with no place to go. They all band together to try and make it to their futures despite the odds against them in a makeshift family of sorts. It is an interesting perspective on what life would have been life trying to survive against the odds in the midst of a world war and one I had anticipated I would have enjoyed until midway through the book where it seems to take on a darker worldly side of not only language but also subject matter you didn't experience until this far into the novel. For me, it wasn't needed to get into the particulars of such events and sexual encounters because up to this point the novel was moving along and conveying such events were possible without describing them and adding profanity to both the characters dialogue, which in my opinion, cheapened the story line even if such things were probably said in real life. I received The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck compliments of William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins Publishers. It is for this very reason that reviews are needed. It prevents the reader from having to endure things they don't wish to read in novels while hoping for an enjoyable historical novel. That being said, most people will rave over the novel as other reviews will undoubtedly praise it for the historical details of what women might have had to endure when their husbands were killed for their beliefs against Hitler and even those who didn't know if their husbands were alive when they were shipped off to imprisonment camps of the SS Nazi's. I give this novel a 3 out of 5 stars.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Beautifully written with characters that I could understand and relate and question. This is a must read. Your heart will feel so many emotions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
thereadingchick More than 1 year ago
The Women in the Castle tells the story of three widowed women in post World War II, Germany. Even though each woman comes from a different level of society their history ties them together. All three are widowed wives of resisters, men who had hoped to assassinate Hitler and stop the war. When their plot failed, these women were left behind; Marianne to carry on in her husbands name to save the wives and families of other resisters, tragically Benita was left in the hands of the conquering army, and Ania and her two boys were left as refugees in a war camp. They come together and live in Marianne’s husband’s castle in Bavaria, each of them moving on in different ways. Marianne was kind of the leader of this troop of women and children. It was her castle they resided in, so she did have the authority to make commands, but also because she had the strongest personality of the three. Her view of the world was very black and white. What their husbands fought for was good and pretty much everything else was evil. It was interesting to see her character grow and learn that there are many shades of grey in the world that don’t represent evil. Benita was the widow of Marianne’s closest friend. She was stunningly beautiful and where beauty usually makes your life easier during a war it brings a ton of unwanted attention. Her story was the hardest to read as she endured some absolute horrors following her husbands death. As we viewed Benita mostly through Marianne’s eyes, she seemed so fragile against the strength of character that was Marianne’s backbone. Ania was a mystery through most of this novel. She was sturdy, strong, and seemed to have a back breaking work ethic. Every time something needed to be done Ania had the strength and knowledge to complete the task. She and Marianne became best friends and partners, I think mostly because she buckled down and got the job done without complaint. Reading a novel about World War II is so difficult because of all of the atrocities of this particular war. What set this novel apart from others I’ve read was that we see the war through these German women’s eyes. Their feelings about what Hitler and the Nazi’s did and the reaction of the people around them- or lack of reaction in a lot of cases. I think this might be the first novel where I read about the German people’s apathy. That most Germans had buried their head in the sand when it came to Hitler’s propaganda and escalating spewing of hatred towards Jews or embraced his theology. This book came out in the beginning of 2017 and now reading it a year and a half later I was stunned by the comparisons I could make to politics in the US right now. I don’t want to get political in my review, but those similarities are pretty scary. I listened to the audio book of this novel. It is narrated by Cassandra Campbell who does an excellent job of reading and emoting while speaking in German, Polish, Russian and American accents. She was truly amazing. She read at a pace that fit the mood of the story and delivered each woman’s dialog with the deft skills of one of the best actors. Bravo, Cassandra! If you have 13+ hours to spare, I’d recommend listening to this book! Regardless if you are reading or listening, this book was truly excellent.
TamMom3 More than 1 year ago
I tried to like this book. After all I loved Lilac Girls and The Nightingale so I stuck with it page after boring page. It had a few good moments here and there but for the most part, I kept thinking this has got to get better soon. I finally got tired of reading over and over again about rape ;and when cruelty to animals set in, I had had enough. Rarely do I give up on a book, but I put it down for good at page 135. I am so sorry that I wasted my time and money on this book. Please don't read this unless you love hearing about cruelty to animals and incessant talk of rape.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Spellbinding! Great characters. Couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cookie75 More than 1 year ago
The quality of the historical content was very good. Although, for me, the story line was dull and that was why I gave it a three. It was easy to put down for something else.
Cora More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was great right from the beginning. It takes place mainly in Germany before, during & after WWII. It follows three women and gives you an idea on what it was like to live during a war. I found the way this was written to be excellent. I would recommend this book.
kaosrules More than 1 year ago
Pros: Wow - another great WWII book - up there with The Lilac Girls, All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale. Great job of contrasting the choices people took, whether to ignore (or "not notice") the current political affairs or to do something and stand up for a belief to change it. A hero vs villain story of normal people. The story lines moved along quickly and there were great descriptions of the horribleness and glimpses of hope interwoven. Great twist at the end with Ania. Benita's ending was well done. Wonderful supporting cast of children, too. Love that this was based on 3 strong and very different women. The main message can be updated to change the historical figures to current political figures with the same idea of intolerance, hate and lack of human compassion. Cons: Wish there was more info on Marianne's life growing up. Felt like got more background on Ania and Benita during there youth and motivations. Thought the ending could have wrapped up a bit sooner, felt it dragged a little and didn't need as much detail at the end. Cover Art: 4 out of 5; Gets the message across without being Gothic-y or scary. Reasonable yet a bit dark. The lighter sky is perfect, as well as the almost invisible airplane.
Delphimo More than 1 year ago
Too many books covering WWII, but so many perspectives on that event. This story presents the story of three German women before, during, and after WWII. The reader meets Marianne, Benita, and Ania, and their children as Marianne attempts to hold this group together and survive the devastation during and after the war. This story reminds me of Motherland by Maria Hummel, which shows the hardships suffered by Germany after the war. Both expose that when the war ends, the suffering does not stop immediately. Jessica Shattuck creates Marianne, a woman enduring all to help everyone recover dignity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
This is not the story of WWII nor is it the story of the holocaust, although those events are responsible for this story. This is the story of survival and friendship in the aftermath of a terrible time in history. Jessica Shattuck tells the story of three German women whose husbands were resistors and were killed for planning the assassination of Hitler. When we meet Marianne von Lingenfels it is at her husband's aunt's annual party at the Castle, on the night that will become known as Kristallnacht. She happens upon a meeting of her husband and several other resistors plotting against Hitler. "Connie" Martin Constantine Fledermann, her childhood friend jokingly appoints her Commander of wives and children. She is annoyed, but this title and promise is what brings these three women together. After the war ends, Marianne finds Martin, Connie's son and Benita his wife, both in unsavory locations/situations and takes them with her to live in The Castle. Shortly after, she receives a call from an American Officer that they have located another wife and children of one of the names she gave them. She moves Ania and her two boys to The Castle from a Displaced Person's Camp. The story tells about the trials and tribulations these women and children had to deal with during this period. The dangers from roving Russian soldiers, the lack of food and water as well as other creature comforts, yet they were better off than many others. As the story unfolds we learn about their past and how it brought them to where they were and what will become of them in this "New Germany". This story is one that needed to be told. I had not heard about what the citizens went through after the war. The scars that they had and the animosity between the resistors and the Nazis. Marianne was a strong woman who took a stand and helped others to the best of her ability. She was not perfect, but she was human. The plot had some slow spots but overall, kept me engaged and I enjoyed this story. A good one for historical fiction lovers. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago