Jessicsa Shattuck The Women In The Castle
April 13, 2017•10 min
Set in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE is the Nazi resisters behind the failed plot to assassinate Hitler, are executed. As the fighting concludes, the women and their children must band together and form a makeshift family to survive the devastating aftermath of the war and attempt to rebuild Germany. Author JESSICA SHATTUCK's previous novels have been hailed across mainstream media, winning accolades from The New York Times Book Review (“witty and promising”), the Los Angeles Times (“pitch-perfect”), People (“stylish storytelling and sharp social commentary”), NPR (“sharp . . . lively . . . wry”), and many other outlets. With THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE, she stretches her already impressive narrative talents to create her boldest and most ambitious novel to date—one that is propulsive, provocative, panoramic, and richly peopled. Partly inspired by Shattuck's own family’s history – THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE grapples with big ideas: good vs. evil; the power of propaganda and divisive rhetoric; issues of moral accountability and political resistance; and, ultimately, whether redemption is ever really possible. Building on the great tradition of beloved World War II stories, such as Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader, while combining the moral complexity and evocative prose of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See with the female focus and tick-tock narrative of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, this new book is a mesmerizing, important book during these times of great political upheaval and polarization, and the moral questions at the heart of it feel more relevant (and necessary) than ever. Stretching back to the 1920s and the beginning of the Nazi era, Shattuck’s story moves through the rise of Hitler, the war years, the immediate postwar period, and into the 1990s (when her three main characters all have American descendants) to address a fundamental moral question: who saw clearly what was happening and who didn’t—or chose not to see—and what, if anything, did they do to resist? With meticulously researched, authentic detail, Shattuck connects us viscerally to the people of this tumultuous time, allowing us to feel its echoes in our own, as only the best historical and literary fiction can do. Epic yet intimate, THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE is, in part, based on the lives of Shattuck’s German grandparents, who were both early supporters of the Nazis but claimed not to know about the Holocaust and other atrocities until the end of the war. Her character Ania, in fact, is loosely based on her grandmother. In addition, Shattuck drew on the experiences of several real-life widows of resisters whom were longtime family friends. The single incident that moved Shattuck to undertake her new novel, more than any other, was stumbling across a picture of her grandfather in Nazi uniform. Although she had known of his past, seeing this visual confirmation jolted her emotionally. Like millions of other ordinary Germans, Shattuck’s grandparents were drawn to what she calls the “perverse idealism” of Nazism in its early years, before the complete extent of its viciousness and depravity became known. Yet, as is evident in her novel, Shattuck believes that in many ways it would have been impossible not to have a full grasp on what was happening by the latter years of the war.