Saturday, August 18, 2012

City of Women: Book Review

City of Women
By David R. Gillham

It is Berlin, World War 2, and the men are fighting at the front. You can hear the bombing almost every night. It is cold outside, short supply of coal, everyone is hungry. Almost every night the women huddle in the basements to find safety from the bombs.

Almost every night, Sigrid and the women of the apartment building where she lives, huddle together and talk gossip, and complain, and tell secrets.  Who is your friend, who is the spy, the informant to the Gestapo? Who is going to turn someone in for a ration of bread, a radio? etc.

Sigrid works in the patent office. She is married to Kasper. Kasper, is off to war, like all the rest of the men.  What is left, the women, and children. Sigrid, lives with her mother- in-law, a great hag of the century. She is a embittered woman. All she ever does is complain about anyone, and everyone.
She blames all the faults of the world on to Sigrid.

Sigrid, is having a affair with Ergon.  They meet every night in the movie theatre, ( if you are prude you may not appreciate this book).where explicit sex, raw and hard take place. One night Sigrid, was to meet Ergon, but instead a young woman named Erika comes into the movie theatre. The Gestapo is looking for a woman.  Sigrid defends her, and she becomes her companion. Slowly, she divulges her story, and her secret.  Sigrid wants to learn more of the girls identity. Finally, she learns she is hiding Jews. She thinks one of the woman, she is hiding is Ergon's wife and children.

My Review: I picked up this book, because it was the BUZZ, at BEA. But, also the interesting plot line. I have read plenty of holocaust books, but not many books on the German perspective. What was it like living in a shell shock city while the men were off to war? Only the women left? I thought this would make interesting reading.

The characters of Sigrid, I hated at first but then grew to admire at the end. I despised Ergon, he was a terrible person. But, being a Jew during WW2, you did terrible thing to get by. I loved her mother in law. I had to laugh, she said what was on her mind. I think I would have killed myself if I had to live with someone like that.

 The author was a screen writer. You can tell that in his description of detail on every page. The author made you feel like you were in Berlin. I like when a author can transport you to a different time and place, and feel like Berlin was character. I felt like I was in one of those movies with Humphrey Bogart, with lots of fog and spies, wearing trench coats.  Throughout the book the author, used German words sporadically. I think that gave the feel of Berlin.

It took me about 100 pages to get in to the book. Once I passed that I was hooked. But, the problem for me, was too many characters and places. I wish the author did have a glossary of the German words he used. After I finished most of the book, 3/4 was read, I was getting confused about the story. I know it was getting suspenseful, but I was lost and did not get the last part, and the ending. Many times I had to flip the pages back and forth, sometimes I understood. Other times, I read it over and over again, and still did not get it.

There was plenty of sex scenes. If you are a prude you may want to overlook the book. It is rough and raw, and explicit words that may be sensitive to your ears. But, war is hard, and people become animal- like, and not care or concern for others. War, is tough, and there are people that have animal instincts during war, and use sex as their outlet.  

I did really wanted to like this novel. But, unfortunately I did not understand the last part. I did not care for Erika, of what I understood. Please, if someone understood the last part of the book, please let me know.

I read other bloggers reviews, and goodreads. Most people seemed to like the book. But, I must be one of the few that had a hard time with the book. I really wanted to like this book. Maybe I will go back and read it again. Hopefully, I will get it by reading it a second time around.


bermudaonion said...

I have this in print and audio and it sounds like I should stick with the print.

John Wilkinson said...

I absolutely agree with the reviewer comments about the ending being somewhat confusing. Be that as it may, I still would recommend the novel. I finished the book night before last, and intend to pick it back up in a day or so, and reread the last 100 pages.

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