It is 1943 - the height of the Second World War - and Berlin has essentially become a city of women.
Sigrid Schröder is, for all intents and purposes, 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 who dreams of her former lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. Her lover is a Jew.
But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets.
A high ranking SS officer and his family move down the hall and Sigrid finds herself pulled into their orbit. A young woman doing her duty-year is out of excuses before Sigrid can even ask her any questions. And then there's the blind man selling pencils on the corner, whose eyes Sigrid can feel following her from behind the darkness of his goggles.
Soon Sigrid is embroiled in a world she knew nothing about, and as her eyes open to the reality around her, the carefully constructed fortress of solitude she has built over the years begins to collapse. She must choose to act on what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two.
In this page-turning novel, David Gillham explores what happens to ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times, and how the choices they make can be the difference between life and death.
Gillham's background as a screenwriter is evident throughout the narrative. He describes a bombed-out Berlin with an eye for detail so perfect his readers will have no difficulty envisioning the scenes he's depicting.
Beyond creating vivid scenes, the author does a masterful job of conveying the privations and constant sense of tension in the war-torn city. He illustrates the sacrifices the citizens of Berlin make for the war effort, the rationing and constant calls for donations of food and clothing they endured.
Gillham combines compelling characters and vivid descriptions of war-torn Berlin into a fast-paced plot that comes across as a surprisingly compelling and original story. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Gillham's debut novel is a meticulously researched and beautifully told love story—and a remarkable look at life in Germany during World War II.
Scenes of wartime Berlin are powerfully described, and the lot of the ordinary citizen is artfully shown. Gillham's romantic and suspenseful novel, commandingly written and believable, should be widely read.
Starred Review. Gillham's transcendent prose... powerfully drawn characters, and the multi-layered dilemmas make his first literary effort a powerful revelation.
Starred Review. 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.
Paula McLain,bestselling author of The Paris 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.
Pam Jenoff, internationally bestselling author of The Things We Cherished
Haunting and sensual, City of Women is a story of survival, of the unfathomable choices made and consequences suffered by those pushed to the brink. David Gillham has depicted a little-known aspect of the war with humanity and grace.
Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House
If you enjoy beautiful story telling, gripping suspense, and a distractingly romantic plot, this is the book for you! An exciting, page turning read!
Margaret Leroy, bestselling author of The Soldier's Wife City of Women is a big, brilliant, passionate book, a masterful evocation of Hitler's Berlin in all its claustrophobia, duplicity, and fear. This is a thriller of searing intensity. ...I found it utterly compelling.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Becky H The City Of Women I started this book with great hope for a fascinating read. Kirkus and the New York Times promised a tale of love and intrigue. By the 100th page I was bored and didn’t like any of the characters. Sigrid seemed especially shallow. The plot hadn’t... Read More
Rated of 5
by techeditor a disappointment CITY OF WOMEN was a disappointment. The dialog and many of the situations are just plain corny. The story is loaded with convenient coincidences. The woman who helps hide Jews in World War II Berlin is, at the same time, a tramp who can't get... Read More
Rated of 5
by Anita What would you do? I read this book based on BookBrowse review and was glad that I did. This is a story of a German housewife in Berlin during WWII whose soldier husband is away fighting. Life in Germany during this period of time, is something that is rarely told.... Read More
Rated of 5
by Linda Miller City of Women An amazing book with little known facts about an underground movement during WWII to move the Jewish people out of German by the German women, some of whom their husbands, sons and brothers or lovers were serving in the German army. They risked... Read More
Berlin, Germany's capital city, was home to more than four million citizens at the start of WWII.
Between 1940 and 1945, the city was the target of 363 air raids, with an estimated 20,000 civilians killed during the period. The most significant and organized series of raids occurred from November 1943 to March 1944.
The controversial mission was led by Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, the Commander-in-Chief of Britain's Bomber Command, the branch of the Royal Air Force (RAF) that controlled Britain's bomber forces. Harris felt that a concerted air attack against the German capital would break the morale of its citizens and cause Germany to capitulate. "It will cost us between 400 and 500 aircraft," he is reported to have said, "but it will cost Germany the...
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A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...