Audiobook Review: City of Women

Absolutely astonishing! Even more extraordinary is the pure listening pleasure offered by this audiobook. I strongly encourage you to listen to this in audio! The City of Women is a fantastic & fabulous story superbly narrated by Suzanne Bertish. She fills this exceptionally well-written story with all the added passion, excitement, suspense and intrigue right up to that final, breathtaking and heartbreaking CD!

The only regret about listening to the audiobook in the car was that so many of those many number of exceptionally poignant or breathtaking words could not be ear-marked to write in here. Gillham’s writing honestly took my breath away many times! However, my sincere thanks once again to Audiobook Jukebox and Penguin Audio for providing a copy of the audiobook, as it was definitely one of the very best I’ve listened to this year! I wouldn’t trade listening to this book for anything! You’ll just have to grab a copy yourself to experience his wonderful writing.

The City of Women centres around Sigrid Schröder, whose husband has gone to the front to fight at the height of WWII and whom must remain in Berlin, now the city of women as over 300,000 men have perished or off fighting Hitler’s war.

Gillham has divinely captured the varied personalities of the women Sigrid lives and interacts with daily, in her job and in her apartment building. From the fiercely disagreeable bitch of a mother-in-law, to the women that dare to speak out against Hitler to the women that then denounce those that have spoken out. All of this in one small building. Sigrid is not quite sure as to where she fits in this new world order- not quite the “good German woman” that her employer or mother-in-law feel she should be, but still not quite the woman silly enough to draw attention to herself for disobeying any of the many rules now governing every aspect of life in Berlin.

This synopsis from Goodreads explains very well the storyline of The City of Women: 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. (Goodreads)

There is one young girl in Sigrid’s building that disappears and keeps odd hours, and basically does everything but what she is employed to do. Sigrid notices that instead of minding the many children, she is coming and going and frustrating her employer with her unexplained absences. Sigrid takes it upon herself to follow Erika one evening and discovers something that will awaken a new identity in Sigrid. She also discovers a heartfelt and strong kinship with Erika, risking much to assist her and keep her alive.

Sigrid immerses herself in this pulse-pounding, life-threatening and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful underground world of extraordinary women that are risking their lives to hide Jews, political dissidents and undesireables. Although the risk is so great, Sigrid fully comes alive and becomes an indispensible and instrumental participant in these clandestine assignments. The intrigue, daring and suspense will keep you glued to this story!

The story of some extraordinary citizens coming to the rescue of Jews during WWII is definitely not a new one, but Gillham has finely brought our attention to these remarkable women that risked so much when they made their choice to do what they felt was right and just. Definitely a 5 star read for me. It’s also up there on the favourites list!

In somewhat related news, I came across this article this morning about the book Soldaten. It contains many transcripts from German POWs detailing their knowledge of the mass killing of Jews. It sounds like a chilling read.