The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:


"Moving . . . 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.

Publisher: New York, NY :, William Morrow,, [2017]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ♭2017
ISBN: 9780062563668
Characteristics: 356 pages


From Library Staff

SPL_Brittany Jul 11, 2017

A refreshing look at WWII fiction, focusing not specifically on the events and struggles during the war, but moreso how a nation rebuilds after being torn apart by war, as seen through the lives of three women.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Aug 15, 2017

A very interesting story and a fairly well-written novel. I especially enjoyed the various approaches to the moral dilemmas and shifting values of a defeated people facing the extreme hardships of the time immediately following WWII in Germany and the juxstaposition of those fiercley driven to remember while others were desperate to forget. I found much of the closing chapters of the book superfluous and there was an almost grinding effort to tie up every loose end and complete the stories of even the long-forgotten minor characters. Sometimes people just fall away from life's narrative. Sometimes things are better left to the readers' imaginations.

Aug 08, 2017

This was a five star book, up until the last section. I found the perspective from the German widows surviving the aftermath of WWII to be very interesting. I thought the author wove past and present into the plot and character development quite well. The final section of the book seemed to slow down a bit, but was still a satisfying read.

Aug 07, 2017

This book was really good up to half way then it curtailed down. The story characters seemed very detached and story line was predictable.

Aug 01, 2017

Great story. The life of 3 women/mothers during WWII. I thoroughly enjoyed the personalities and narration of each woman and found myself wanting more, which lead to a page-turner. I also enjoyed that it followed this women through many decades. Descriptive storytelling made you imagine this castle and wanting to tour it yourself. This would make a great addition to a book-club.

Jul 21, 2017

One of my favorite books of the year so far. Marianne, whose husband is involved in the failed plot to kill Hitler tells her to take care of the loved ones of the co-conspirators. Though Marianne would rather have been more involved with the plot, she promises and follows through on her promise with zealous single-mindedness. I disagree with the Library Journal review that says readers are confused by the changing narrators. Not at all. It was easy to follow and is a unique story of women's survival during the war. Though all the women may not be what they seem to be, each does what is necessary for herself and her children. Highly recommended.

archreads Jul 18, 2017

This historical fiction novel follows three women in Germany before, during and after WWII.
It is a riveting and intriguing approach to the war.

SPL_Brittany Jul 11, 2017

A refreshing look at WWII fiction, focusing not specifically on the events and struggles during the war, but moreso how a nation rebuilds after being torn apart by war, as seen through the lives of three women.

Jun 23, 2017

Wow! The comments already out there pretty much say it all! One woman tries to find all the widows of a German Resistance group who failed in their attempt to assassinate Hitler. Of course, all the men involved are executed. The woman, also a widow of one of the men, manages to find 2 of the widows and the book excellently tells what happened before the assassination attempt, what happens right after the war's end, when the 3 widows live together in the one woman's family castle (very, very rundown castle) and what happens many years later in their lives. Excellent writing and an interesting story....but, like all stories that take place during and after the European Theater of WW II, very sad and at times I was sooo angry at what was going on. I really recommend it for reading.

Jun 20, 2017

I loved this book. As other comments, have said, it is about three widows of German resisters who husbands attempted to assassinate Hitler near the end of WWII. The characters are fully human, their actions both heroic and destructive in a narrative that shows how people keep secrets, which ones they keep, and the consequences of that. What I loved was the elegant prose that captures experiences and the emotions fundamental to everyone.

May 19, 2017

Marianne von Lingenfels is a well-born woman whose mission is to gather the widows and families of resistors whose husbands made an ill-fated attempt on Hitler’s life; the wives have also suffered consequences. As Marianne gathers two families at the family’s ‘castle,’ well away from the damaged cities, stories unfold and lives begin again.

Brilliantly told story of choices, assumptions, and judgments along with the consequences for people in Germany following the fascism of the Hirler era. Great nuanced characters, passion and pathos. If you like stories with everything tied up at the end, you’ll be happy with this one. Highly recommended.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SPL

To Top