Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review: CITY OF WOMEN by author David R. Gillham

City of Women

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 facade 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.


"City of Women" is a big book, but then again, author David R. Gillham has a big story to tell. World War II Berlin has sent away its men to fight, leaving behind women of all ages and social standing to cope and continue a shell existence. Nothing can be right until the cruel conflict is over, but will it ever really be over? As Sigrid Schroder's husband wages war on the Eastern Front, Sigrid goes through all the expected motions. She goes to her job, manages to sustain with rations and other deprivations, and dutifully suffers her mother-in-law's attitude and opinions. All outward appearances suggest Sigrid is loyal and true to the German regime. However, her dreams of her dangerous involvement with her Jewish former lover begin to unravel the wool over her eyes. Sigrid recklessly shelters a woman and her children whom she believes to be the family of her lost lover. The choices Sigrid is forced to make will no longer allow her to ignore the atrocities of the war around her. David R. Gillham is an extraordinary storyteller, creating imperfect, unforgettable characters. Most of all, he paints exquisitely intimate portraits of women who live with the face of death beside them in their mirrors. David R. Gillham, what will be your next gift to your readers?

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David R. Gillham
David R. Gillham was trained as a writer at the University of Southern California, where he moved from screen writing into fiction. After relocating to New York City, he spent more than a decade in the book business, and now lives with his family in western Massachusetts.

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