It is 1943 - the height of the Second World War. With the men taken by the army, Berlin has become a city of women. And while her husband fights on the Eastern Front, Sigrid Schröder is, for all intents and purposes, the model 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 Jewish lover, who is now lost in the chaos of the war.
Sigrid's tedious existence is turned upside down when she finds herself hiding a mother and her two young daughters - whom she believes might be her lover's family - and she must make terrifying choices that could cost her everything.
©2012 David R. Gillham (P)2012 Penguin Audio
wow! what a great listen. I've read a number of books (both fiction and nonfiction) set during the WWII era, but this was far more "grittier" than most. Really peels back the layers and describes what ordinary Germans were confronted with during the Nazi regime. Great narration by someone who could do a German accent, too (or perhaps Ms Bertish is German). This is one of those books that is better listened to than read, due to the pronunciations of all of the German locations, etc. Highly recommend!
If you want to listen to a book that's full of passion and despair, then this will fit the bill. The most interesting aspect is the main character's evolution from a naiive, lonely housewife into a hardened and courageous woman with a strong sense of morality as well as irony. The narrator is perfect, but her evocation of dismal daily life in wartime Berlin made me want to turn to something more lighthearted and escapist for my next selection.
David Gillham's moving and true words, in the hands of Suzanne Bertish's uncanny voicing of these flawed and damaged characters, left me in a continual state of anticipation, wonder, and concern for the characters. One cannot help being amazed at the depth of research necessary to convey the sense of realism that had me peering over my shoulder for signs of trouble from time to time in "the German glance."
Like all good fiction, Gillham's story never betrays the reader's sense of trust in the trueness of the story and characterizations in a moving portrayal of how ordinary people react bravely or cowardly in the face of government evil. I found City of Women a completely surprising and thrilling performance. Bravo!
Compelling, richly described depiction of Berlin during the Hitler regime through the eyes of a young woman. As she awakens to the horror of conditions created by propaganda and hatred, Sigrid, the main character is moved to act.
Reminded me of Alan Furst's novels.
My favorite scene is when Sigrid explains her political actions to her husband. While she is able to confront their dilemma, he has given up and throws himself under the wheel of tyranny. He does not condemn her. His acceptance reflects the helplessness of many German citizens who reluctantly resigned themselves to the inhumanity of the regime.
I loved this book - I hated this book. My fingernails are bitten to the quick. And I've turned blue from holding my breath. Maybe you have to be of my generation (I was born in 1938) to really be affected by this story. I remember the newsreels and the newspapers during the second world war. This story of a non-Jew who helped Jews escape Nazi Germany seemed to me to be so real. Her miraculous escapes from the Gestapo sometimes seemed a little too miraculous - but I wouldn't have it any other way. And Bertish's narration was right on - not too dramatic - just right. The accent (I'm no expert) seemed to me to be perfect and helped me visualize the characters - the characters who were so true to life. One of my favorite characters was the mother-in-law. I felt total pity for her and would have pushed her out the window long ago. This book should be required reading for all those who can't look around and realize that such things are still going on in the world and couldn't possibly happen here.
I loved reading the book. I want to get the audio book for my brother. It is a book that every person should give to each of the people who must read this book, It is a special gift for each person who reads the book or listens to the audio book.. I could never put the book down, It is a book about the Holocaust and Hitler. I will never understand how anybody could be so mean to anyone. When we were stationed in Germany, not one German admitted there was a Hitler or a concentration camp. Now the High School students in Germany must learn about Hitler and his team and go to a concentration camp. I am so pleased that the Board of Education is making the students know about the horrible things that were done to other people. Six million Jews were killed during World War two.
The way some of Germans wanted to help the Jewish people to hide from the atrocities performed by Hitler and his group of officers.
Intriguing characters and a well-written story about German women living in Berlin during WW II. I really liked the characters and how the story evolved, and I will read more by this author.
i like to read. i like to listen.
This was one of the top books I listened to. Suzanne Bertish was a great narrator, giving life not only to Sigrid, but to all the characters in this wonderful story. What I liked abut her narration is that she was so emotional as she read.
I've never listened to another one, but I will be putting her on my list to hear again.
i was so excited and intrigued by this book. Sigrid's story was fascinating...twists and turns on every page. i thought that she was a truly strong female character - even with all her flaws - she embodied what all great lead women do. courage and empathy, but also sadness and doubt.
i was enthralled following Sigrid as she tried maneuvering wartime Berlin, and all it's cast of characters. And i loved that as a reader, we didn't know the truth about anyone...we found out as she did. friends were enemies, enemies were friends. who could she trust? could she even trust herself to do the right things?
i loved every minute of this novel. i wish it never ended.
Powerful, intense, interesting
The descriptive writing
The entire book moved me, the writing was beautiful and the depth with which the author portrayed the protagonist made the story fascinating
War from another perspective and relationships from the inside out- great insight on both.
The twists and turns of plot, the picture of world war II from the women's perspective and the German perspective, the complex characters
Egon, the jewish lover
"My favourite listen of 2013"
I bought this on impulse without much research (I'm wary of debut novels usually)... and what a find it turned out to be. This had me glued to my seat throughout.
Beautifully narrated, it is a moving and compelling story of - mostly - women in Berlin during WWII. The story revolves mainly around women helping Jews escape capture by the Gestapo. The range of characters includes nazis, resistance heros and heroines, soldiers and ordinary women - and various mixtures thereof. It puts you face to face with moral complexity and ethical dilemmas. It's a moving love story and an even more moving story of an unlikely friendship. It is all shades of grey; no black and white, no right and wrong. Good guys behaving badly and bad guys behaving heroically. Fallible individuals facing extreme situations in different ways.
It's well written, psychologically insightful and atmospheric. I can't wait to see if David Gillham has further novels in the pipeline.
"A Truly Brilliant Historical Thriller"
David Gillham has burst forth into the ranks of Furst and Le Carre with this perfectly shaped gem of a novel. The story, the characters, the historical detail, and the energy of the story telling, propel you through this amazing book. I've never encountered a novel with such telling and powerful use of detail and such a stunning presentation of a moment in history. I loved it, and it's stayed with me for a long time after. Also the narrator was absolutely perfect! Incredible performance, amazing voices, beautifully read! Sigrid is a wonderful protagonist, and her story is very gripping and ultimately moving. A great sense of women and women's lives as well. Highest Recommendation!
Thought-provoking story that played on my mind even when I wasn't listening to it & has stayed with me since. The characters were engaging and drawn with beautiful detail that brought them to life. But I struggled, really quite a lot at points, with the fact that the narrator couldn't do even a vaguely passable German accent. Credit to her, she kept trying. But at the point where two German characters were in conversation and, mystifyingly, one developed a Welsh accent and the other an Indian accent, I really wished she'd stop trying.
"Powerful and thought provoking"
I have already recommended this as an engaging listen. I really disliked most of the characters to begin with but over time they emerged as well rounded characters dealing with appalling situations as people do- some well, most not so well. Over time the enormous bravery of flawed people made for a fascinating listen.
There is a lot of well written sex!
The twists and turns of the plot were great- I don't want to give anything away...
The protagonist of course
Lots of moments especially the friendships of women and the humanity and selflessness they showed
Persevere beyond the first couple of chapters as this is necessary scene setting- the mundane life of citizens at war
"Slow but good in the end"
I found the start of the book a bit slow going, but after chapter 4 got into all the characters and enjoyed it from then on. The narrator was very good, and portrayed the different character very well.
"Little heard story of the German resistance"
Very powerful story of the German resistance in Berlin during WW2. Well narrated. Left me thinking of it for days and how I would have acted in their shoes.
I would certainly read it, whether I would listen again is another matter. What should be a really engaging story is sullied by a somewhat cold delivery. I'm not sure whether that's because the lead character is cold and aloof, or whether it's the delivery that has he words delivered exceedingly forcefully, which makes you feel she's almost shouting at the others in the story.
That said, the gradual immersion in the lot works well, and the slow realisation of the propaganda the citizens are being fed works well, and the characters surrounding her are well rounded and believable. Just a shame about that steam-rollering disconnection.
The slight and yet exceedingly strong willed young lady who leads with bravery, courage and not a little recklessness our heroine to act rather than wallow.
Cold, disconnected, confident
No, it wasn't that engaging, although as you get into the story of Auntie and the undercover world, it certainly becomes much more engaging.
Yes I would certainly recommend this book to a friend with confidence they would enjoy it.
Black Roses. The intrigue of the inside workings of the ordinary good german during WW2.
Suzanne Bertish is a stunning narrator. She portrayed the v. nasty mother in law in genius fashion. I loathed the old cow as she intended me to. I would look out for books narrated by her in the future.
I will leave it a month or two and definitely listen to this again as it is many layered.
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