This week I am proud to review two wonderful books that I can’t recommend highly enough. Both books get a rare five-star rating from me!
THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE – Jessica Shattuck
Rating: 5 stars
The Women in the Castle was on my “to-read list” for about a year. I had forgotten about it until I saw a copy at the library. I am so glad I read this treasure of a book about German women living in the aftermath of WW2. The story centers around a crumbling Bavarian castle, once host to German high society, now the refuge of a group of women who lost their husbands to the anti-Hitler movement.
Marianne is a formidable woman and “The Commander of the Wives and Children”. As a result of a promise made to her husband before he was executed, she searches for and rescues the wives of the other resistors. First, she finds Benita, the young wife of her childhood friend who has fallen into the hands of the Red Army, and her son Martin. Then she finds Ania and her two boys in a camp for displaced Germans. Together, these three women and their children live in the old castle and manage to survive the dark days in Germany post WW2. As the women learn more about each other and are forced to come to terms with past decisions, Marianne especially learns that life is not always black and white.
I really loved The Women in the Castle. I enjoy stories about women in periods of history where they were largely overlooked (true, that is most of history). I thought each of the three main characters had very interesting points of view, and definitely gave me food for thought. Marianne is a powerful character with strong convictions about right and wrong. Benita, whose husband is definitely on the right side of history, made me consider how tough it is for the families of those who sacrifice their lives for a cause. I don’t want to give too much away about Ania, but she made me realise that it is easy to judge people for their choices when you’re not in the same situation.
Overall, The Women in the Castle is a very worthwhile book to read with important lessons. It is a realistic look at what it may have been like for women rebuilding their lives after the war.
AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE – Tayari Jones
Rating: 5 stars
An American Marriage has become impossible to ignore. It appeared all over my Instagram feed after Oprah chose it as her “book club pick” (as did many other Insta book clubs I follow). And wow, An American Marriage is a masterpiece.
Roy and Celestial are a young, black, newly married couple beginning their lives together with everything to live for. Their marriage is not perfect, but they are hopeful and ambitious, on the brink of exciting things. But one night, things go terribly wrong.
Roy is accused of a crime he did not commit (this is never in doubt). Due to a miscarriage of justice he is convicted of rape and sent to jail. Celestial initially stands by him, but eventually they drift apart as she becomes disconnected from him. She takes comfort from her childhood friend Andre. When Roy’s conviction is overturned five years later, he returns, ready to rebuild their marriage. Celestial then finds herself in an impossible position.
An American Marriage, is so beautifully and honestly written. The author writes the middle part of the book as letters between Celestial and Roy. To me, this is the best part of the book. Here, one reads about the breakdown in their marriage as they struggle to adjust to their new normal. The novel touches on the bias towards black men in the USA as well as some of the terrible realities of prison life.
An American Marriage is a sad but stunning novel, and is a must-read.
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