POP – Jessica Shattuck

April 10, 2017

This week’s Purchase Orders Placed report highlights Jessica Shattuck, whose new novel The Women in the Castle (sorry no ARC), published by an imprint of HarperCollins, is running over 80 holds. Shattuck has authored two previous titles and I am adding to the collection (probably re-adding) her debut The Hazards of Good Breeding. This third title is an IndieNext top selection and a multiply mentioned recommendation of EarlyWord galley chatterers. Her second title, A Perfect Life from 2009, has circulated 83 times.  The American Booksellers Association features an interview with Shattuck here.

Shattuck, Jessica. The Women in the Castle. William Morrow & Co., March 28th.

The Women in the Castle

Publisher summary: Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

Shattuck, Jessica. Hazards of Good Breeding. W. W. Norton, 2004.

book cover

Publisher summary: This “richly appointed and generously portrayed” (Kirkus Reviews) debut novel tells the story of a WASPy, old-Boston family coming face to face with an America much larger than the one it was born in. Told from five perspectives, the novel spans an explosive week in the life of the Dunlaps, culminating in a series of events that will change their way of life forever.

Caroline Dunlap has written off the insular world of the Boston deb parties, golf club luaus, and WASP weddings that she grew up with. But when she reluctantly returns home after her college graduation, she finds that not everything is quite as predictable, or protected, as she had imagined. Her father, the eccentric, puritanical Jack Dunlap, is carrying on stoically after the breakup of his marriage, but he can’t stop thinking of Rosita, the family housekeeper he fired almost six months ago. Caroline’s little brother, Eliot, is working on a giant papier-mâché diorama of their town-or is he hatching a plan of larger proportions?

As the real reason for Rosita’s departure is revealed, the novel culminates in a series of events that assault the fragile, sheltered, and arguably obsolete world of the Dunlaps.

Opening a window into a family’s repressed desires and fears, The Hazards of Good Breeding is a startlingly perceptive comedy of manners that heralds a new writer of dazzling talent.

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