The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

The Women in the Castle is yet another WWII book! This one was set in Germany and its central characters were members of the German resistance, which I’ve read nothing about. Marianne von Lingenfels’ husband is one of the leaders of the resistance and Marianne is assigned The Commander of the Wives and Children. When the German resistance failed and the men were captured and killed, Marianne’s job was to round up the wives and children of the resistance and ensure their safety.

Once the war is over, Marianne gets to work. She is able to find the families of three members of the resistance and brings them to live in the ruins of her family castle. They struggle through the after effects of their country at war. Germany is full of poverty and hunger, but they band together to find the little joys in life.

This book was fascinating to me in so many ways. We meet a lot of Nazis throughout this story, and it struck me how good and decent many of them were, but Hitler’s ability to paint an “other” allowed them to justify what was happening to people in their own country. Germany was just coming out of WWI and was feeling the agony of that loss, so it was easy for Hitler to brand a group of people as the enemy and responsible for the pain of the country. This sounds very familiar to those of us living in the States right now and was absolutely terrifying to me.

I loved this book and found myself sobbing in the end. It made me think a lot about the reconciliation that will have to happen in this country at some point. We are so divided and I feel a lot of anger and hatred towards people who voted for Trump in this last election. I know many of them are not bad people and don’t deserve my hatred, but it’s still so hard to understand how they could look the other way and support him. But here we are, over a year after the election, and it still stings. Nearly every day I say, “I can’t believe he even got one vote.”

Figuring out how to bridge that gap is a post all in itself, but that’s what I’ve been pondering. Perhaps I’ll be brave enough to write more about it at some point, but for now: read this book! It was carefully researched, wonderfully written, and captivated my imagination and spirit.


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