The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

For all the horror of the official reports she and Albrecht had seen, with their language of “extermination” and “elimination,” they could not come close to conjuring this. How could they? There was no point of reference. Later, such footage would come to be so familiar it became unseen-a kind of placeholder for human evil. The first black-and-white glimpse of barbed wire, dirt, and nakedness cautioned viewers,look away. But in this moment, in the first unveiling, it was nothing she or anyone else had ever seen. And it was impossible to look away. She looked and trembled in her seat.

I’ve always heard it discussed on just how could the German people all condone what was going on in their country under Hitler’s reign. This book takes you there. And sadly I’m probably not going to be able to convey how powerful the book is.

It starts in a Bavarian castle at a party.
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Marianne and her husband Albrecht are hosting, news comes to them of destruction taking place that will later be known asKristallnacht. Marianne is not a woman that lets things go on around her without knowing what is going on, so she enters a room where her husband, her best friend Connie and others are talking about how scared they are of what is becoming of their country. They don’t agree with Hitler’s politics. Connie (who Marianne is secretly in love with) introduces later his new fiance. A poor girl named Benita. He makes Marianne promise to him to always look after his wife and son should something happen to him.

Things do happen. Connie and Albrecht join in on a plot to assassinate Hitler and it fails. They are put to death and Benita is thrown into prison, even though she was totally clueless.

Marianne fights to find their child and get Benita back so that she can fulfill her promise.

They make their way across a war torn Germany back to the castle, which is now crumbling. Along the way they pick up Ania and her two sons.
There is a whole lot of secrets bound by these women in that castle. They know that the world around them is deeply changed forever but so have they.

This book isn’t a pretty picture of anything. It tells how each of these women faced what they were challenged with wide open eyes.
She felt the pulse of the lives lived inside the mean little houses she passed: selfish or generous, kind or unkind, ugly or tolerable, almost all of them sad. And she saw the histories of the people passing by like x-rays stamped on their faces-ugly, mutinous tracings of dark and light: a woman who ratted out a neighbor, a man who had shot children, a soldier who had held his dying friend in his arms. Yet here they were, carrying groceries, holding children’s hands, turning their collars up against the wind. As if their moments of truth-the decisions by which they would be judged and would judge themselves-hadn’t already come and passed What a sham this new German present was! An irrelevant time-a mad scramble to cast votes after the verdict had already been reached.

Some of this sounds so familiar to me. They say history repeats itself. I hope this time in history stays never repeated forever. Not forgotten though, educate yourself. Step back from your hate (even though you don’t see it as hate) and educate yourselves. You would hope that with all the ways to learn that are available today that people would.
But….
On the news and my stupid Facebook feed though you would wonder. I see hate from BOTH sides. No one will admit that they have the wrong viewpoint. They become keyboard commandos for their cause and never see that they might just be preaching some of that hate that they so strongly oppose. What they are saying is right and nothing else will do.

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Booksource: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and then promptly lost it. I’m glad I found it again.

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