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The Women in the Castle


A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the...
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Discuss The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck:
Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

Created: 02/10/18

Replies: 14

Posted Feb. 10, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1626

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Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?


Posted Feb. 12, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurief

Join Date: 09/08/12

Posts: 41

RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

Surprise me or educate me? Most of us know and have read about the tragedies of WWII so I wouldn't say I was surprised. Learning/reading about the brave women who survived and had to regain some assemblance of normalcy, family, and community was eye opening leaving the reader sympathetic/empathetic.


Posted Feb. 12, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Janet Smith

Join Date: 07/28/14

Posts: 14

RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

No. Being a child of a WW!! veteran, my sister and I grew up with stories from my Dad about the war. A few years ago we visited Berlin and learned more about the devastation in Germany. My heart went out to all of the people who lived through this first hand.


Posted Feb. 12, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
alycet

Join Date: 04/23/12

Posts: 101

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RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

No, but I lived in Germany in 1959-1960. I had heard some of the same stories and worse. Jessica Shattuck in her book answered the "main questions" we all had. How could such nice happy people do such evil deeds?
How did they allow things to get out of hand? In the time period I was there conditions were quite different going from the American occupied sector to the French or Russian sectors.


Posted Feb. 14, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianac

Join Date: 04/02/13

Posts: 38

RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

Historical fiction is my genre of choice and I have read countless books from this period. I was not surprised by anything I read nor did I learn anything new.


Posted Feb. 14, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

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RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

Surprise isn't the right word -- I had a general sense that life was very hard for Germans and other "losers" of WW2, and in fact for our European allies as well. But I really didn't have much information or understanding of just how bad it was in Germany, during as well as after the war. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, we weren't taught much of anything about Germany, not even in literature classes, except that it was a military power defeated in two wars, with the defeat in WW1 leading to economic conditions that brought about Hitler and WW2. Of course, we weren't taught, either, that our own nation to some extent collaborated with German industrialists and looked the other way until Pearl Harbor... Nor that there was a eugenics movement in America, nor that we had a history of genocide against native populations here.

This novel was the first I've read that invited me to empathize with the experience of some ordinary citizens of Germany during and after WW2. Before that, my knowledge reflected that our literature and cultural focus in history, film, etc., has been almost exclusively focused on the Jewish victims (understandably), and on the wartime privations of the French, British and Americans, at home or in battle. So yes, I learned something from this novel, about life in that place and time and how great the pressures would be to look the other way in order to survive. This is consistent with what I knew about how the Nazis worked--not just killing Jews, but anyone not fitting the Nazi ideal: people with mental illness or disabilities, homosexuals, Romany, etc., and especially both resistors and suspected dissidents.


Posted Feb. 17, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurap

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 223

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RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

So much of the literature about Germany and World War II focuses on the Holocaustand with good reason. There's less written about the impact of the war on ordinary Germans and the conditions they faced. The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman and Ursula Hegi's Stones from the River offer fictional treatment of this topic, and The German War by Nicholas Stargardt is a nonfiction treatise on the subject. The idea that there was a resistance movement inside Germany is also not always front and center in either fiction or nonfiction about this time. JLPenn's comment is right on point.


Posted Feb. 18, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Joni

Join Date: 11/04/17

Posts: 12

RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

I am a WW II documentary nerd and also love reading historical fiction from this time period so I wasn’t surprised by the conditions. I do feel like I learn just in general every time I read anything even when it’s something I’m pretty familiar with.


Posted Feb. 18, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
leopolds

Join Date: 11/13/17

Posts: 11

RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

i learned insight into those seeing it happen and being German what they may have faced emotionally.


Posted Feb. 18, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paml

Join Date: 10/25/12

Posts: 83

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RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

I agree with JLPenn77. There was so much in this novel that I sort of knew, but was confirmed. I had no idea of the further atrocities and the reasons of why Hitler rose to power. It almost seemed like a perfect storm. What surprised me was the posters that were up after WWII in Germany. Horrible images saying: These shameful acts: your quilt! The Behind the Book information let me know about the shame the German people carried.


Posted Mar. 05, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kimk

Join Date: 10/16/10

Posts: 335

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RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

I'm not sure that I actually learned anything new, but it did make me think about an aspect of WWII that I hadn't thought much about before. Most war books are about battles and famous heroes; one doesn't read about "ordinary" people - particularly not women - very often at all. I appreciate books that lead me to a greater understanding of what others have gone through. As a U.S. citizen I've had the luxury of never having to experience what it's like to have a war being waged on your doorstep.


Posted Mar. 07, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janetp

Join Date: 08/16/11

Posts: 13

RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

I have read so many books of historical fiction about WWII and studied the war in non-fiction but I haven't spent much time looking at the every day life of women in Germany after the way and the extremes of guilt and bitterness depending on the role of the men in their lives or their own choices during the war. The characters in this book were so very realistic. It gave me so much more understanding about what the war did to ordinary people in Germany. I guess I have seen them as so full of blame for just going along with Hitler, and that's not realistic when you consider the difficulty of standing alone against the powers that be even in our own time in the US. It is much easier to ignore and hope that "good" wins out. This book was excellent and definitely surprised me in a way I don't think I really should have been surprised. Partly because I believe that most people are basically good and struggle along doing the best they can with the circumstances they are handed. And usually, this is enough. But in extraordinary experiences brought about by war and the evil individuals who take advantage of power during times of war, just struggling along proves to be not enough. This book didn't have good and perfect characters. All the characters were generally just human beings doing their best and now and then not doing their best.


Posted Mar. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Silly Lotus

Join Date: 10/07/15

Posts: 15

RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

To me, this was the most valuable thing about the book. I think the insight into the recovery of ordinary people was extremely interesting. as commented above, how could any people not only allow but participate in the atrocities that the government demanded. How could they not? Intersting that the intellectual and financial elite were the ones (in the book) that revolted against the government demands and attempted the assassination. Iknowthere were attempts, but don't kow whowas behind them all. I found the ook fascinating and well worth the time to read and discuss.


Posted Mar. 20, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
gretchenm

Join Date: 06/04/12

Posts: 17

Youth

It was interesting to me to learn the process by which Hitler trained the youth of Germany. The brainwashing of such young boys was so tragic.


Posted Mar. 21, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paulagb

Join Date: 08/16/17

Posts: 40

RE: Did anything surprise you about conditions in post-war Germany? Did you learn anything new from the novel?

Postwar Germany was a difficult place to live, but not because of the shame of what the Nazis did to the world, but because they finally suffered that same destruction. I was surprised to see the representation of the failure or refusal of the German survivors to admit the fault the rest of the world assigned to Germany.


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