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City of Women: A Novel

Average Rating 4
( 82 )
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(34)

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(26)

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(8)

2 Star

(11)

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(3)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

You will race through this novel

Author David Gillham's debut novel, City of Women, has an interesting premise: in WWII Berlin, the city is filled mainly with women, as the men are off to war. I found the thought intriguing, a city where the women went to work, kept the home fires burning, but also ac...
Author David Gillham's debut novel, City of Women, has an interesting premise: in WWII Berlin, the city is filled mainly with women, as the men are off to war. I found the thought intriguing, a city where the women went to work, kept the home fires burning, but also actively supported the cause of war.

Or did they? Sigrid works at a factory and lives with her miserable mother-in-law while her husband is fighting at the front. She is unhappy, and one day attends an afternoon movie and begins a torrid sexual relationship with a Jewish man hiding in the movie theatre balcony.

Sigrid grows tired of pretending to be the supportive wife, the good German who believes that what her country is doing is right. She becomes curious about Ericha, the young mother's helper in the downstairs apartment, and when she discovers that the girl is helping to hide Jews, Sigrid reluctantly becomes involved after Ericha tells her
"Compromise is the lesson of the day. It's easy to do. A pregnant woman with a yellow star must walk in the freezing rain because Jews are barred from public transport. Just don't look. A man is beaten by the police in front of his children. Don't look. The SS march a column of skeletons, in filthy striped rags, down the middle of the goddamned street. But don't look," she whispers roughly. "You avert your eyes enough times, and finally you go blind. You don't actually see anything any longer."
We've all heard about the French Resistance, but I have heard little about the Germans who were covertly working against their country. There certainly were people there who followed their conscience, at their own peril.

When Sigrid's lover disappears, she is distraught. She becomes involved with her neighbor's brother, a brutish soldier who uses his connections take advantage of others. She hopes to use him to find her lost lover. Her Jewish lover reappears and asks her to help him with something illicit. Sigrid doesn't know whom to trust.

Meanwhile, Sigrid has become more involved in hiding Jews. She becomes attached to a mother and her two young daughters, believing them to be her Jewish lover's family who disappeared.

The author gives us a real look at what it's like to live in a war zone; some of the strongest scenes take place as the residents of the apartment hide from bombs being dropped. You can actually feel the claustrophobia of all those people locked in a small space.

There are many tense scenes in the novel; several times I felt myself gritting my teeth, waiting to see what would happen. Gillham wrote some brilliant characters, and placed them in situations that had me questioning if I would have the courage that Sigrid and Ericha showed.

This is the kind of novel that has you racing through the pages to finish, and yet once you did, you wanted to sit back and contemplate what you had just read for a long while. I loved the complicated journey that Sigrid finds herself on. I think it would be a fabulous film, with many great roles for female actresses. I would love to see that movie.

posted by bookchickdi on August 20, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

Do not recommend

Very disappointing read. How I thought the book would be and how it actually turned out were two entirely different things. I would not read another book by this author - book jumped all over the place - could have been a really good book if plot was presented differe...
Very disappointing read. How I thought the book would be and how it actually turned out were two entirely different things. I would not read another book by this author - book jumped all over the place - could have been a really good book if plot was presented differently.

posted by 4016696 on September 14, 2012

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  • Posted August 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    You will race through this novel

    Author David Gillham's debut novel, City of Women, has an interesting premise: in WWII Berlin, the city is filled mainly with women, as the men are off to war. I found the thought intriguing, a city where the women went to work, kept the home fires burning, but also actively supported the cause of war.

    Or did they? Sigrid works at a factory and lives with her miserable mother-in-law while her husband is fighting at the front. She is unhappy, and one day attends an afternoon movie and begins a torrid sexual relationship with a Jewish man hiding in the movie theatre balcony.

    Sigrid grows tired of pretending to be the supportive wife, the good German who believes that what her country is doing is right. She becomes curious about Ericha, the young mother's helper in the downstairs apartment, and when she discovers that the girl is helping to hide Jews, Sigrid reluctantly becomes involved after Ericha tells her
    "Compromise is the lesson of the day. It's easy to do. A pregnant woman with a yellow star must walk in the freezing rain because Jews are barred from public transport. Just don't look. A man is beaten by the police in front of his children. Don't look. The SS march a column of skeletons, in filthy striped rags, down the middle of the goddamned street. But don't look," she whispers roughly. "You avert your eyes enough times, and finally you go blind. You don't actually see anything any longer."
    We've all heard about the French Resistance, but I have heard little about the Germans who were covertly working against their country. There certainly were people there who followed their conscience, at their own peril.

    When Sigrid's lover disappears, she is distraught. She becomes involved with her neighbor's brother, a brutish soldier who uses his connections take advantage of others. She hopes to use him to find her lost lover. Her Jewish lover reappears and asks her to help him with something illicit. Sigrid doesn't know whom to trust.

    Meanwhile, Sigrid has become more involved in hiding Jews. She becomes attached to a mother and her two young daughters, believing them to be her Jewish lover's family who disappeared.

    The author gives us a real look at what it's like to live in a war zone; some of the strongest scenes take place as the residents of the apartment hide from bombs being dropped. You can actually feel the claustrophobia of all those people locked in a small space.

    There are many tense scenes in the novel; several times I felt myself gritting my teeth, waiting to see what would happen. Gillham wrote some brilliant characters, and placed them in situations that had me questioning if I would have the courage that Sigrid and Ericha showed.

    This is the kind of novel that has you racing through the pages to finish, and yet once you did, you wanted to sit back and contemplate what you had just read for a long while. I loved the complicated journey that Sigrid finds herself on. I think it would be a fabulous film, with many great roles for female actresses. I would love to see that movie.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Every time I read about "Hitler's War" I am amazed by

    Every time I read about "Hitler's War" I am amazed by the people and the choices they make and I wonder, what would I have done? How would I have handled my life in war……
    The story starts out a little slow and this is not a fun or light read, this is gut wrenching and thought provoking & it took me a while to get into it but once I did I needed to know more.
    Sigrid is a good German Girl. World war 2 is coming to an end, her husband as with most of the men in Berlin are dead or off fighting and she is left alone in a city of women.
    she is living with her nasty mother in law and the only thing to do to escape the hell of war is go to the theatre. It is there that she is reluctantly drawn in to helping the Jews and eventually falling in love with one of them. This is a book about questions and choices, how and why we make them and the consequences that can follow us for a lifetime.

    P.S. I love the cover art of this book...:)

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2013

    David Gillham has written a truly rich and profound novel. It sp

    David Gillham has written a truly rich and profound novel. It speaks of the  survival and courage of all
    women during WWII in Nazi Germany. You are instantly transported to that time and  place; to the almost 
    hopeless situations that these women are forced to endure but ultimately there is survival for some.
    I was truly moved because it was written by a man in a woman's voice. Time well spent!
    Looking forward to reading more from this author.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    I truly enjoyed the story, but his editor could have caught the

    I truly enjoyed the story, but his editor could have caught the mistakes in the book and it would have read easier. It interferred with the flow and I had to go back and reread sentences for it to make sense. I would have thought they would have done a better job with editing. Maybe next time they will be more careful.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    recommended

    Thought provoking, good read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2012

    Not your everyday read

    This was an engaging book that kept my interest peeked. The characters were flawed, nasty, heroic and......very human. The story line is not one that has been repeated so many times that you find yourself growing bored while reading. I will make it a point to read this author in the future.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    Give this book a try.

    Hard to get started but well worth it. I enjoyed it very much. It would make a good book club read to start discussion of what would we do in that situation. I hope I would have courage.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2012

    Berlin 1943: As If You Were Theree

    From the very first paragraph, you can feel your anxiety level increase as the book's heroine, Sigrid, moves within the paranoid, suspicious world of Hitler's Germany. Highly recommended if you are looking for something that's more than a romance, more than a mystery, and more than a drama all in one. It kept me captivated from beginning to end. Excellent reading enjoyment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2012

    Loved it!

    Loved it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2013

    If you like history, drama, and true love stories, I think that you will enjoy this book.

    This is the way it was when a city was captured and controlled. women did what they had to do.

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  • Posted August 23, 2013

    You won't put it down!

    Berlin during 1943. This is a novel with a different window on the war. What was life like for the women left behind in the city? Were they Nazi supporters? Did they try to help the Jews to freedom? Of course there were some of both. This is the story of one woman whose eyes are opened to life even as death is all around.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2013

    Interesting perspective on the role women had in Germany during WW2

    This novel made me stop & think about how I would have reacted if I had been living in Germany during WW11. Would I have helped the Jews? The main character appeared to have made some of her choices to help the evacuation due to defiance towards her stoic mother in law & her sexual involvement with a Jewish lover & a chance encounter with a female neighbor who solicited her help.
    So this novel got me thinking & had some very good female characters to develop the plot. I would certainly recommend it!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2013

    Not all Germans were Nazis.

    This book looks at a different side of WWII. It is about women in Berlin during the war. Just like the English, they feared for their families and themselves when their city was bombed. It is the story of some courageous women who risked their lives to help Jews and others who were Nazi targets.
    Great for historical fiction fans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2012

    Agreat book

    Excellent read
    keeps your intrest

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  • Posted September 14, 2012

    Highly Recommended!

    When I got this book I had just returned from a trip to Germany during which I found the German people to be so warm and engaging. I found myself trying to reconcile the horrors of the Nazi atrocities with the wonderful people I met. While it doesn't have all the answers, this book makes you think about what you might do if you were in the same circumstances as the German people under Hitler's regime. Would you have the courage to rebel against it, or would you look the other way in order to survive?

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  • Posted September 7, 2012

    Highly recommened

    A riveting story of women in war plagued Berlin, assisting in the rescuing of Nazi hunted Jews.
    Emotional, but also with an erotic intrigue of forbidden love.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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