Marianne von Lingenfels has always been strong, and that strength has gotten her and her two young sons through years of war in their German home. A promise to her husband, a prominent member of the Resistance, leads Marianne to seek and find other widows of that effort and bring them back to Castle von Lingenfels. Marianne finds her childhood friend’s widow and young son and brings them home, and soon after another mother with two young sons rounds out the group living in the drafty old castle.
Existence is a day-to-day effort, and their safety is always at risk. Although the war is over, life is far from stable, but the three women work together to provide for their children, putting their abilities to test while all learn to live in this new world. Each of the women has a complicated history with secrets too devastating to bear, but the fight for survival is foremost. As the children grow and Germany returns to what is a new normal, each of the women finds their lives changing, intersecting uncomfortably with the past at some times, and moving towards a time when their living arrangements will not be necessarily bound by the needs of the past.
The Women in the Castle is a remarkably essential book for today – as the generation of people who lived, fought and survived World War II in all parts of the world age and pass away, it becomes all the more important to capture their stories of resiliency, self-reliance and nonconformity. Author Jessica Shattuck has constructed a novel in which readers will immediately become engaged, and the depth of each of the characters is remarkable. The burdens each of the women carry are unimaginable, yet those burdens never weigh the story down, instead creating an instant empathy for each of the women, their story and the ultimate resolution of their lives. The Women in the Castle is an engrossing and intimate novel of love, sacrifice, betrayal and forgiveness, a truly thought-provoking, must-read book of 2017.