City of Women: A Novel

City of Women: A Novel

3.9 84
by David R. Gillham
     
 

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A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND ONE OF KIRKUS REVIEWS' BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

It is 1943—the height of the Second World War. With the men away at the front, Berlin has become a city of women.

On the surface, Sigrid Schröder is the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her

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Overview

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND ONE OF KIRKUS REVIEWS' BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

It is 1943—the height of the Second World War. With the men away at the front, Berlin has become a city of women.

On the surface, Sigrid Schröder is the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime.

But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman of passion who dreams of her former Jewish lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets—she soon finds herself caught between what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two . . .

READERS GUIDE INSIDE

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"You haven't experienced such gray skies since season 1 of The Killing, but the feel is all Casablanca. I can't wait for Gillham's next novel—play it again, Sam." —Stephen King

"The writing is a great mix of the literary and commercial, page-turning and suspenseful, with a morally complex, intelligent heroine at its center. If you’re a fan of well-written historical novels in the vein of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, this one is for you."—Slate

“If you enjoy beautiful storytelling, gripping suspense, and distractingly romantic plot, this is the book for you! An exciting page-turning read!”—Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House

“A thriller of searing intensity that asks the most urgent of questions—how to love, who to trust, what can be saved in the very darkest of times. I found it utterly compelling.” —Margaret Leroy, New York Times bestselling author of The Soldier’s Wife

“In this moving and masterful debut, David Gillham brings war-torn Berlin to life and reveals the extraordinary mettle of women tested to their limits and beyond. Powerful and piercingly real. You won’t soon forget these characters.”—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife

“[A] stunning debut . . . Transcendent prose.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“As impossible to put down as it is to forget.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A terrifically tense first novel."—The Times

Publishers Weekly
In this stunning debut about the battle between good and evil, Gillham puts a fresh spin on the horrors of WWII by focusing on civilian German women to reveal that, amid the many adherents of the party line there were a handful of unsung heroes. We first meet Sigrid Schröder in 1943. She is an unassuming stenographer stuck in a loveless marriage and living in Berlin with her sour, difficult mother-in-law. But her life is not as common as it seems, for she has a lover, a Jewish lover, and if that were not risky enough, Sigrid becomes entangled with a neighbor who is helping to shelter Jews. As the war progresses, and Sigrid’s husband is sent to the Russian front, she’s drawn deeper into a world where trust is a hard-won commodity. The line between what is “right” and “wrong” becomes harder to define as Sigrid, confronted with increasingly more horrifying realities, finds her resolve constantly tested. Gillham’s transcendent prose (“Looking into her eyes is like staring thorough the windows of a bombed-out building”; “The words both murdered her and made her whole”), powerfully drawn characters, and the multilayered dilemmas make his first literary effort a powerful revelation. Agent: Rebecca Gradinger, Fletcher & Company. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
In his debut about 1943 Berlin, Gillham uses elements common to the many previous movies and books about World War II—from vicious Nazis to black marketeers to Jewish children hiding in attics to beautiful blond German women hiding their sexuality inside drab coats—yet manages to make the story fresh. The blond beauty is Sigrid, a stenographer living alone with her unpleasant mother-in-law while her husband, Kaspar, serves on the eastern front. Sigrid's Berlin is a grim city full of suspicious, fearful citizens barely coping with shortages and almost nightly air raids, people not above turning each other over to the Gestapo for unpatriotic behavior. But Sigrid is mostly consumed in pining not for Kaspar but for Egon, the Jewish black markeeter with whom she carried on a passionate affair before he went into hiding. At first, Sigrid resists when Ericha, a rebellious teenager living in her building, involves her in an underground network hiding Jews, but iconoclast Sigrid soon finds that her experience as Egon's occasional "bagman" serves her well as she delivers supplies and humans to a safe house. At the same time, she befriends new neighbors, two sisters and their wounded-officer brother, Wolfram, whose impeccable German credentials are not what they seem. Sigrid finds herself wondering if a particular Jewish woman with two daughters in hiding might be Egon's wife. But when Egon reappears in her life, she doesn't bring up her suspicions. Instead she hides him in her neighbors' apartment, an awkward situation given that she has recently begun what she considers a purely sexual affair with Wolfram. The wounded and embittered Kaspar's return only complicates the situation. With her underground activities as intricate as her love life, Sigrid can trust no one, yet must trust a dangerously wider circle of acquaintances until the hold-your-breath suspense ending. World War II Germany may be familiar ground, but Gillham's novel—vividly cinematic yet subtle and full of moral ambiguity, not to mention riveting characters—is as impossible to put down as it is to forget.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425252963
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/07/2013
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
275,173
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Anderson McKean
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—Anderson McKean (Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL)
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—Leigh Barnes (The Book Bin, Onley, VA)
From the Publisher

"You haven't experienced such gray skies since season 1 of The Killing, but the feel is all Casablanca. I can't wait for Gillham's next novel—play it again, Sam." —Stephen King

"The writing is a great mix of the literary and commercial, page-turning and suspenseful, with a morally complex, intelligent heroine at its center. If you’re a fan of well-written historical novels in the vein of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, this one is for you."--Slate

“If you enjoy beautiful storytelling, gripping suspense, and distractingly romantic plot, this is the book for you! An exciting page-turning read!”—Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House

“A thriller of searing intensity that asks the most urgent of questions—how to love, who to trust, what can be saved in the very darkest of times. I found it utterly compelling.” —Margaret Leroy, New York Times bestselling author of The Soldier’s Wife

“In this moving and masterful debut, David Gillham brings war-torn Berlin to life and reveals the extraordinary mettle of women tested to their limits and beyond. Powerful and piercingly real. You won’t soon forget these characters.”—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife

“[A] stunning debut . . . Transcendent prose.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“As impossible to put down as it is to forget.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A terrifically tense first novel."—The Times

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