Review: The Women in the Castle – Jessica Shattuck

Another day, another World War II novel review here on The Paperback Pilgrim.

Now I know what you are thinking, ‘Sara, don’t you ever get tired of reading seemingly the same story ever three or four books?’

The answer.


I don’t know what it is about World War II, but I keep coming back to fiction set during the period.

And yet, up to this point, I haven’t read a World War II novel set in Germany, told by Germans.

Enter The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck.

Set in World War II, and featuring three vastly different women, this book has been on my radar for quite some time.

Did The Women in the Castle live up to my expectations? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

The Book 

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 resistor 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.

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.

The Review

This book was breathtaking.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, thank you, by the way, you know how much I am a sucker for a good World War II novel.

This one, however, differs in the fact that it is set in Germany, before, during and after the war.

It tells the story of the other side, and for that, I am grateful to Shattuck.

Very rarely do you read a World War II novel told in Germany by German characters.

The characters themselves were flawed.

Beautifully flawed.

Marianne, Benita, and Ania did things they couldn’t be proud of.

It wasn’t pretty, but I suppose neither is war.

I don’t want to say much about the women, half of the beauty of the book is learning and feeling for each of them.

They are women, thrust into an impossible situation, and while I disagreed with how some of the decisions were made, I know each of their choices lead them to ‘The End’.

There is a quote, near the end of the book, which captures the essence of each of the women featured in The Women in the Castle, ‘there is nothing you can do about this now. Your actions are your actions. At the end of your life, you have done what you have done. You did what you to do to survive.’

I know this book will stay with me, it is one that teaches you about how easy it is to be complacent, while also showing that having the courage to stand up is far more rewarding.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase Links

William Morrow | Amazon | Barnes & NobleIndigo

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