- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 12 hours and 38 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: HarperAudio
- Audible.com Release Date: March 28, 2017
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01NBUC8DN
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Women in the Castle Audiobook – Unabridged
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During the post-War period, when most of the action takes place, Marianne finds Martin and Benita, separated from each other, and brings them to the now ruined castle. With help from the American military, she locates a woman she didn't know before, Ania Grabanek, who has suffered severe deprivation and mistreatment. Marianne brings her and her children to the castle, also. All three women are attempting to build a future and amend the past. The story, while not filled with dazzling plot points or pulse-pounding pacing, takes its time to develop the characters, so that the truly searing (and often quotidian) events affect us organically.
The women have their own crosses to bear, and this is when it departs from typical Holocaust literature. As often as I've read WW II literature about the enemies of Germany, I've not read much about the ambivalence of native Germans or those that adopted Germany as their home. Hindsight is 20/20, but at the time of the war, most Germans were ripe for the propaganda machine. Many who were struggling wanted nothing more than to see the country united and flush. Sound familiar? There is definitely a kindred spark that relates to America in 2016. What will we say in 50 years when we look back at our current leader? Many everyday Germans had no idea that Hitler was the embodiment of evil, or that his cruelties, including genocide, were happening around them. They just wanted to be safe and secure again.
As the timeline alternates, we become installed in the lives of these women, and how their pasts led them to their present circumstances. The narrative is gritty, realistic, and vivid. Nobody is all virtuous; in fact, there's enough moral ambiguity to go around. Mistakes are made that cause irreparable tragedies, and each woman has blind spots that burden their lives. It wasn't a flashy page-turner, but I was fully installed in the story. Shattuck has evolved since her splendid The Hazards of Good Breeding, which was a story restricted to an elite, privileged family in Boston. In The Women in the Castle, Shattuck raises the bar by writing about European women of varied classes and backgrounds, with a nuanced portrayal of each character.
The novel spans about 50 years, but the chapters that are set in the 1990s seemed more like an epilogue to me. If you are expecting "feminine literature," you may be surprised. The author writes with an assured and confident style that transcends the niche of gender writing. This rich tapestry of historically relevant events takes a fresh perspective and should be required reading for all literature lovers, and anyone who is interested in the lesser known history--and its shadows--of modern times.
The book characterizes the men who plotted to assassinate Hitler as resisters and heroes, who were fighting for what was right and moral. BUT in reality the men who plotted to kill Hitler were Nazis and part of the Nazi war machine. According to historians, the reasons that the plotters sought to kill Hitler, was to stop the suicidal two front war that was being waged--certain defeat for Germany. The plotters wanted to negotiate an agreement with the Allies to end the war, and save Germany, and by the way keep/colonize Poland. These men signed off on orders killing innocent civilians.It is disgusting that this book tries to re-write history and imagine that the men, who were part of the German nobility, were righteous. Indeed, the women in the book did nothing to help those less fortunate around them. Don't waste your time and money on this book.
Unfortunately, the women don’t grow or change much beyond their starting points in the novel. While Marianne, Benita, and Ania stand apart from one another, they still fall into female character tropes. Marianne is the dutiful wife, Benita is the “silly little chicken locked up in her flat,” and Ania is the mysterious, silent woman who cannot escape her past. They’re characters that have been seen time and time again, and their place in WWII Germany is not enough to make them stand apart. All three women fail to grow much in character, ending the novel with nearly the same mindsets that they began with. Even though their stories are all interesting, this lack of growth took a lot of the joy out of getting invested in them as characters.