Excerpt from City of Women by David R. Gillham, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

City of Women

A Novel

by David R. Gillham

City of Women by David R. Gillham X
City of Women by David R. Gillham
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2012, 400 pages
    May 2013, 448 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

A flamethrower belches a stream of burning oil. A chorus of rockets squeals into the smoke– encrusted air. A heavy machine gun rattles. But Sigrid closes her eyes to all of it. She craves this square of darkness like an addict. Only sleep offers her such sanctuary from the present world. Alone in the darkness, she reopens the past, and returns to the instant before Egon had spoken his first words to her.

Listen to this, she hears him say from the empty seat beside her, though she knows it is only a whisper of memory.

The mezzanine had been an icebox that day, but the simple sight of this man who was not her husband had drawn her toward him, as if she had just found an unexpected source of heat. He was sleekly barbered and wearing a cashmere coat with the collar turned up, striking a dandyish note that was incongruous with the rawness he exuded. Something in his expression was unruly, and his posture was defined by a confident animal brawn.

She had come to the cinema to find an empty space in the day. War movies were best, because attendance was usually weak, so she had bought a ticket for the matinee of Battle Group Danzig, in order to find a crevice of solitude. To find a fissure in her concrete routine, where she could escape the racket of office typewriters. Escape the noise of her mother-in-law's complaints and the wordless criticisms of her husband's glances.

The house lights were still up. She couldn't help but steal a look at the man as he brooded over a copy of the Morgenpost. He looked out of place, but intentionally so. A premeditated outsider. Is that what had prompted her to disregard the number on her ticket and choose a spot only two seats away from his? His eyes had captured and then released her. Then nothing. Only the newspaper claimed his interest as she adjusted her scarf and settled herself in the seat, trying to build her walls out of the empty space. A stout Berliner occupied a seat at the front of the balcony, his hat clamped down over his ears as he stared in obedient anticipation at the curtained screen. She inhaled the tang of smoke from the projector operator's cigarette above her head. Beside her, the man who was not her husband grunted to himself and turned a page in his newspaper. She found that she, too, was sitting in obedient anticipation, her palms clammy. Was she expecting something? There were many reasons why she should not be planting herself so close to a stranger. Any number of reasons, not the least of which was that she had just made some small effort to conceal her wedding band in the way she folded her hands. A thin, unadorned ring of electroplated gold on the third finger of her right hand. As unadorned as the marriage itself.

"Listen to this," she heard the man say suddenly, without preamble, without introduction, as if they had been in the midst of a conversation. His voice was deep, as if scraped from the rock of a cave. " 'Physician of true German stock, fifty- seven years old and a veteran of the Cameroon campaigns, fervently desires marital union with a modest and frugal Aryan female, who is strong and healthy, blessed with broad hips for childbearing, and who is repulsed by nicotine and cosmetics.' My God, now, there's a catch," he said, and grinned, showing her his smile for the very first time. "Don't tell me you're not tempted."

"No, I think not," Sigrid replied, even though she knew she shouldn't be answering. Even though she had no business doing so. "I'm afraid I once owned a tube of lipstick."

"Well, this one, then. I know this one will set your heart pounding. 'Aryan widower of property, age sixty- two, wishes male progeny through matrimony with a young, fertile Aryan mate, in order to preserve an old family name from extinction.' There you have it. An old family name, yours for the taking." He read on. This old man and that old man searching for pure- blooded Aryan bedmates, but Sigrid was not fully listening. Instead, she was watching the slight twitch in his jawline as he spoke. A thin tremble of muscle that she felt repeated as a shiver beneath her skin.

Excerpted from City of Women by David R Gillham. Copyright © 2012 by David R Gillham. Excerpted by permission of Amy Einhorn Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Bombing of Berlin

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo da Vinci
    by Walter Isaacson
    The name Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most recognized in all of Western history, and his ...
  • Book Jacket: The Immortalists
    The Immortalists
    by Chloe Benjamin
    On a summer day in 1969 in New York City, the Gold children agree to seek out a mysterious ...
  • Book Jacket: The Kites
    The Kites
    by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
    Published by New Directions for the first time in English, Romain Gary's The Kites tells a story of ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Dry by Jane Harper

Winner of the 2017 BookBrowse Debut Novel Award

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Chalk Man
    by C. J. Tudor

    Relentlessly compelling psychological suspense. The must-read thriller debut of 2018.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Mothers of Sparta

Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir

A dazzling literary memoir with shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott and Jenny Lawson.


Word Play

Sorry, we do not currently have an active wordplay!

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.