Friday, February 15, 2013

The City of Women by David R. Gillham

Whom do you trust, whom do you love, and who can be saved? 

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.

In 1943 Germany, with most men engaged in war, the city of Berlin has become a city void of men, with only women and children and the elderly living within its boundaries.

In David R. Gillham’s novel The City of Women, he takes us into the heart of Germany, and through the eyes of an unforgettable character named Sigrid, he introduces us to the moral and daily challenges faced by women struggling to maintain a semblance of normality during the darkest days of World War II. This he accomplishes with immense insight and depth.

With her husband Kaspar away fighting somewhere, a young stenographer named Sigrid remains at home to care for her mean-spirited, difficult to please, mother-in-law. With food, clothing, and other necessities of life in short supply, she meets a Jewish man named Egon who peddles goods in the black market and enters into a passionate affair with him.

As the American and British begin bombing the city, more and more, Sigrid is forced into bomb shelters. As life becomes more difficult, and never knowing who can be trusted, Sigrid is inadvertently drawn to a young teenager named Ericha and soon finds herself delivering items and supplies to house where Jews are being hidden. As the book progresses, Sigrid’s life becomes riddled with danger.

This dark novel is impossible to put down. Readers can experience the emotions of the times, the bomb sirens, the sound of low flying aircraft about to let loose their deadly charges, the hunger and hardship, and most of all, the fear. Sigrid’s actions leave the reader questioning her moral choices, yet keenly aware of how the harsh times affected her ability to make decisions and forced her to act in ways contrary to her spirit. Mesmeric characters, a desperate setting, and a plot that keeps moving toward a riveting conclusion, makes this book a must read. This one is sure to be a bestseller.

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