Not Logged in.
Book Jacket

The Women in the Castle


A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the...
Summary and Reviews
Excerpt
Reading Guide
Author Biography

Discuss The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck:
How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

Created: 02/10/18

Replies: 17

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

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1480

Expert

How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?


Posted Feb. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
catherynez

Join Date: 01/27/18

Posts: 13

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

The novel made me feel more sympathetic for the ordinary Germans during and after the war. They were trying to just live their lives and then ended up in difficult situations. Many felt unable to help their friends and acquaintances that were killed or taken away just because of their beliefs. They also weren't told the whole truth about what was going on in their country. After the war, they felt very guilty and terrible about the Nazi's actions especially if they didn't participate in the resistance. At the same time, others shunned them after the war.


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

Join Date: 09/08/12

Posts: 35

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

Yes it does as the author uncovers the story of the resisters, the risks they took, those they left behind and the repercussions the suriviors lived with.


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

Join Date: 04/23/12

Posts: 84

Expert

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

The novel would hopefully enlighten those who have not traveled to Germany and talked first hand with the citizens. Jessica does an artful job of opening our eyes.


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

Join Date: 04/20/16

Posts: 7

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

I think that so often novels about this time focus on the horrors of the Holocaust. This novel tells us more about the suffering of ordinary Germans. In war, everyone suffers and people have to make terrible choices. All Germans suffered, some more than others and many paid the ultimate sacrifice.


Posted Feb. 13, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marilynj

Join Date: 08/07/11

Posts: 34

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

I agree that this novel differs in its focus in that it is about ordinary people and their terrible choices, their sacrifices, their reactions to the horrors they saw, and the tragedies they suffered. Another book in the same vein that I loved and want to re-read now was Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. It, like The Women in the Castle, is beautifully written and heart-breaking, about ordinary and yet not-so-ordinary people.


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

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 205

Expert

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

I think Americans have tended to feel superior to/critical of Germans for "allowing" Hitler and the Holocaust to happen. We tend to assign blame in broad sweeps. (Germans bad, British Good, America Good, overlooking our own collusion and appeasement, for example, not to mention our own history of genocide...) The novel's intent, I believe, is to challenge that complacency and over-simplification, by showing us a range of German responses to what was going on, the complexity of sorting out the right from the wrong, as well as all of the challenges to basic survival that Germans had to cope with. It is a way of reminding us that right now, so many Americans are also facing economic hardship and we are also seeing the first stages of a nationalistic, militaristic, white supremacist and potentially totalitarian political movement. In other words, we are in the position of German citizens at the onset of Hitler's rise to power. How will we respond?


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

Join Date: 03/14/17

Posts: 4

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

I, again, admire the remarks of JLPen77. After reading his or her comments, I don't feel there's much that I can add other than agreement. The comparison of our position to that of Germany during that period is frightening, but apt.


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

Join Date: 02/17/18

Posts: 6

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

While the book does attempt to show the attraction of early Nazi rhetoric to certain Germans in the late 1920's and early 1930's, I can't say that I am sympathetic to the sense of victim-hood these people had. Similarly I don't completely sympathize with the current feeling of victim-hood by some in contemporary America. That is not to say there was not suffering by ordinary people after WWI. But a different response to the suffering might have had a different result. At the end Ania thinks she might have prevented some of the worst of Rainer's behavior if only she had loved him more. This may be naive but it is a feeling to which one can relate. Not everyone can be a hero or an active resister but neither should everyone be an active participant in evil. Mueller tried to distance himself from the evil acts in Lublin. That is a small act of non-participation that multiplied many times over might have made a difference. Marianne could have found this out if she had not been so judgemental.


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

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 196

Expert

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

Both JLPenn77 and joy b offer great insights. An excellent non-ficton treatment of the attitudes and understandings of the German populace is offered by Nicholas Stargardt in "The German War." It is truly easy to oversimplify. Some Germans knew nothing; some knew and resisted, and some knew and went along. Painting with too broad a brush is a mistake we all make, and certainly it is easy to do on this issue. Shattuck does a good job of describing and exploring the variety of attitudes toward the Nazis as she builds her three main characters.


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

Join Date: 11/13/17

Posts: 11

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

shows us that grouping a people is not always correct on how they felt about their government


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

Join Date: 02/15/18

Posts: 6

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

We so often think about the lives of those impacted by the actions of the Germans without thinking about what it must have been like for those Germans just trying to live their lives. I found myself thinking most about what it must have been like to be living in a country raging war when those not personally involved were most worried about just living. It also made me think about how the Germans returned to some sort of normalcy after "losing the war." The book is very thought-provoking along these lines.


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

Join Date: 10/25/12

Posts: 83

Expert

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

What I came away with from this novel is that after WWI the German people felt defeated and isolated. Hitler came in and made them feel a part of a greater community and that they were going to be winners. After WWII I believe many Germans felt dooped, shameful and guilty. However, life did go on and recovery did occur. Resilience of the human spirit. So many lost so much.


Posted Feb. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marys

Join Date: 05/24/11

Posts: 37

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

So many great comments on this thread! I found the novel an excellent story that reminded people of how war has far reaching applications to all of us. I can only hope that more people read this book and learn/remember how horrific war is on everyone.


Posted Feb. 21, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorothyl

Join Date: 04/15/12

Posts: 92

Expert

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

I agree with many of the comments above. We need to read books like this to understand what happened in Germany, why it happened, and how there are always people who resist evil and those who are paralyzed and then feel regret.


Posted Feb. 23, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
annettes

Join Date: 04/15/11

Posts: 18

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

This book is one of only a few that deals with what the German people (non-Nazis) dealt with in tehir daily lives. So many of the German people felt hopeless about survival and did not see how they could resist the evils that were destroying their country.


Posted Feb. 27, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kdowney25

Join Date: 01/25/16

Posts: 61

Expert

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

This is a thought-provoking question with so many thoughtful comments! I don't think I've read a book about Germans after the war, or about the German people just trying to survive. I hadn't thought about German citizens against Hitler and all he represented. I'm ashamed to say that for years in my mind Germans=Nazis. This was particularly shameful for me when I learned about the atrocities of the holocaust. My family was of German descent and I was ashamed of that and didn't want to have anything to do with anything German. Laurap made an excellent point about painting with too broad a brush. I know I've done that.


Posted Mar. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
A.T.

Join Date: 03/04/18

Posts: 4

RE: How do you think the novel challenges our perceptions and notions of Germans during and after the war?

I have a very close friend, an older gentleman, who is German. He grew up with all women, since his father and all his uncles and older cousins were soldiers in the war. He has always been reluctant to talk about the war, other than to say he was sad that he never knew his father and that he had no male role models growing up. This book made me want to ask him more, to see if he would share what he felt about the war. His family wasn't part of the resistance, but on the other side, supporting Hitler. I know he doesn't talk much about it because he knows it is a bad subject to talk about here in the U.S. Jessica Shattuck's story reminds us that there are many, many sides and many, many stories.


Reply

Please login to post a response.