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The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

I received this book as a giveaway by William Morrow in exchange for an honest review.
The book left an ambiguous impression. On one hand, not many books nowadays tackle the subject of war with grace, patience, and poise. On the other hand, it was somewhat of a disappointing novel.
The plot line mostly moves forward with occasional flashback to the pre-war and early WWII Germany. The surviving wives of German conspirators against Hitler are grappling with their lives, survival, necessary sacrifices, and guilt.

Guilt should be and is the leading theme of the novel, but somehow the existential circumstances the characters faced did not move me. Believe me, I am not immune to the topic of war, senseless violence, and guilt, but Jessica Shattuck is not Dostoevsky.

I know – it is a hefty goal to strive to be, but there is one thing I see as a trend. American writers can do thrillers and suspense books, espionage and conspiracy novels very well ( it might be a part of literary tradition) , and, to be fair, Russian writers fail miserably at it, but when it comes to emotional anguish and self-devouring guilt, inner monologues and soul-searching, no one does it better that Russian writers.
It does not mean American writers should not try, though. A nice try …


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Filed under Book Review, Historical Fiction


This is the second novel written by Dickens that I meanly give only three stars. The Dickens chemistry, his verve, and his charisma are not here.

Don’t get me wrong – all the characters are typically his, as well as his pathos, his satire, and his WORDSMITHERY. Despite his typical Dickens features, it was one of the most unlikable novel – the characters were all detached from the me, and their inner world eluded me all the time. Their heartbeats, their desires, and their hopes that his characters usually wear on their sleeves were mysteriously and unfavorably missing.

The novel was cold – some of his characters were unreachable and unrelatable even on the level of rejection. Sometimes one relates to characters by simply hating their guts, and in this novel, I felt absolutely nothing.

I can not even pinpoint the reason of this emotional failure – the language was inventive and the imagery is highly original, the zeitgeist of the small industrial town is perfectly captured, the social issues are burning and their exploration is truly visionary, but the chemistry between this novel and me is nonexistent.

Sorry, Maestro.

Up to a point, it was an expected slack after the powerful and masterful gem of Bleak House. It happens to the best of us 🙂

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Filed under Book Review, Classic, Dickens, Literary Fiction, Uncategorized