Gillham, David R. "City of Women" - 2012
This was a novel chosen by our book club. This will probably be the last International Book Club book I discuss for a while. For health reasons, I regrettably had to decide to end it for now. But I hope to start again at some point.
I probably would not have chosen this book if I had to decide for myself. I like to read books about the war but I prefer to read them when they are written by someone who lived through the war, and there are plenty of accounts like that.
What was even worse in this case, the author is a non-German man but he writes mainly about German women. I could have forgiven that fact if I had had the feeling that he knows what he is talking about. But already the names give you the impression that he has no idea. They are all spelled differently, no German would spell the name Erika with a "ch" (so Ericha), for example, and even Karin with a C looks weird. It just leaves behind a weird taste of unprofessionalism and makes the story less believable. It reminded me of those of my American friends who find out that the city Wiesbaden is pronounced Weeesbaden and henceforth spell it Weisbaden.
Anyway, the names were not the only part that was annoying, the whole plot, the whole language was rather simple. Yes, he was trying to tell how the women in a war torn city lived, how they carried on their lives in Nazi-Germany. But did he really manage to do that? The story wasn't as brilliant as a lot of the critics suggest, it was boring at times and didn't reveal anything new that I hadn't read in other, much better books about the second World War.
Not my book. Probably goes well for those people who would call it a "beach read". I would file it under "chick lit".
We discussed this in our book club in September 2013.
From the back cover:
"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."