“The Women in the Castle” is a book which gives us both at times a painfully dull and intriguingly enjoyable approach to World War 2. In one chapter, Jessica Shattuck will have crafted an intriguing and enjoyable situation for her characters and in the next we can only hope for it to end as quickly as possible.
“The Women in the Castle” follows the experiences of a social group of women (attention is given primarily to Benita and her interactions with them but the story overall follows the group’s experiences) and their families as World War 2 unfolds around them. And to give this work it’s credit, it does an excellent job of analyzing civilian sentiments and ideologies throughout the war, a narrative that is often overshadowed by the larger, more known narratives which came from that time period.
Yet that praise is but one half of the experience, for just as the characters become the strength, so too do they become the weakness of this book. None of the characters feel as though they are strong enough on their own to carry a scene, yet other times the narrative feels cluttered by too many interacting and fighting for the attention of the reader. Where the book shone for me was during the moments of small group character interaction.
For all it’s faults, the book is not impossible to enjoy, while some sections may feel as though they have little to offer and can drag, there is always a moment of enjoyment a few pages later.