Tuesday, November 20, 2012

City of Women - David R. Gillham (Audio)

I have a long and beloved relationship with Amy Einhorn books.  95% of the ones I've read have been five star reads for me (and the other 5%...well that's OK.  We can't love everything).  This lady has a gift for picking books that will change your perspective, rock your world, haunt your dreams.  She sniffs out the gems.

This was a highly-anticipated release for AE and for me.  Anytime I hear the words "WWII" and "Resistance", my antennae start to cautiously twitch.  I love the time period, and I love stories about the ordinary person doing extraordinary things, but because of this, I've become picky.  Just any old WWII story won't do.  It has to stand out.  Well, this one did.  

Synopsis:  Sigrid Schroder appears to be your model German frau.  She is married to a banker-turned-soldier, she works long hours at a patents office, she suffers her live-in mother-in-law, she isolates herself from the horrors occurring around her in 1943 Berlin.  Prying back a layer, however, allows us to discover that her marriage is loveless, particularly after her miscarriage.  She is lonely and adrift.

One day, while at the cinema, she has a sudden, passionate encounter with a man who becomes her lover.  In a city of women, where most of the men are fighting for the Fuhrer, this has been known to happen.  The problem is...her lover is a Jew.  Sigrid also befriends a 19-year-old woman who is acting as a nanny for a family in the her apartment building, only to find that this women is part of a complex network of a resistance movement...the blind man on the corner, a taxi driver, a pornographic photographer, a doctor, a Nazi general...all individuals willing to take life-threatening risks to do what is right.

As Sigrid gets pulled into this underworld, she begins to learn things about herself she never appreciated.  How far she would go for love, or for friendship, or to save innocent lives.  How she can no longer turn her head when brutality occurs.  But the trick is figuring out who can be trusted.

My thoughts:  This was certainly a WWII book that stands apart from the rest.  The general plot is one we have heard before.  Where it differentiates itself is in the characterization of these women.  These are not shrinking violets.  These are steely, ball-busting women who carry cyanide pills and revolvers in their purses.  

In fact, I was taken aback by the masculine spirit of the story.  Two other fitting adjectives would be "gritty" and "dark", which are words I usually throw out when I'm talking about the damaged-homicide-detective-chasing-serial-murderers kind of book.  There was a lot of sex, and it wasn't glamorous or romantic.  It was needy, urgent attempts at pleasure in the back of a movie theater, in seedy motels, or back alleys.  I was also a little alienated by the easy way these women hop from man to man, irregardless of who is married and who is not, for the purposes of passion or an agenda.  It was all very feral and debauched.  

But the story is one of incredible bravery and the belief in doing right by those who have been victimized.  There is fear, exhilaration, and violent painful deaths of those who are caught.  It is hard to say I loved this book.  It was too harsh for love.  But it is a story that will stick in my mind for a long time.

A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator for this book was Suzanne Bertish.  She does not have many audios on her resume, but I believe she was a good choice.  She has a very harsh, gruff, accented voice, which normally is not what I enjoy, but this was exactly as Sigrid should have sounded.  Bertish is a British actress that has enjoyed roles on television and the stage.

Audiobook length:  13 hours and 10 minutes (400 pages)

4 out of 5 stars    

     
    

15 comments:

Jenny said...

There definitely was sort of a grittiness to this. I was actually surprised when I remembered it was written by a man because I thought he did really well at writing from the women's perspective.

JoAnn said...

"These are not shrinking violets. These are steely, ball-busting women who carry cyanide pills and revolvers in their purses."

Exactly!! Don't think I've ever listened to this harsh of a book... so memorable, but not my usual fare.

Anita said...

I tried to listen to this one and it just didn't work for me. So,many good reviews, I was sad. Good to hear you enjoyed it!!!

David Gillham said...

Sandy, thanks so much for this terrific review of CITY OF WOMEN. I'm very grateful. All the best - David Gillham

bermudaonion said...

I have this in print and audio and wondered how the audio is - I thought the story might be too complicated. I need to try it soon!

techeditor said...

I just won this book (hard cover, not audio) in an online contest and will be reading it once I finish my current book. Everyone says it's as good as you say, so I'm anxious to get started.

Julie P. said...

I thought this book was outstanding. I agree that it was very dark and gritty though, and probably not for everyone.

Zibilee said...

I have this, and am excited to get to it. It does sound really gritty and harsh, and frankly, that entices me, because I have read so many WWII books that I felt were a bit emotionally heavy, but not really harsh in the way you are describing this. Excellent review. You have made me want to pick this one up next!!

Anna said...

I'm putting this on my Christmas list because the library is too slow in getting me a copy. LOL It does sound fantastic and unique.

Jenners said...

Amy Einhorn does have a gift. Pistol packing women during WWII? Sounds exciting.

Alyce said...

I've got this audiobook on my coffee table. I've listened to part of the first disc and then stalled out because I don't have enough "me" time in the car by myself to listen to it. I'll have to load it on my computer so that I can move it to my MP3 player - that's going to be the only way.

I've seen a lot of glowing reviews for this book, and the only issues people seem to have is with the cheating and bed-hopping, so I can't say I haven't been warned about that. :)

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

This one's sitting on my desk staring at me...may just have to get to it before the quiet after Thanksgiving weekend is over :)

Beth F said...

I loved this one! I thought the audio was great.

Charlie said...

I haven't heard of it before, but I like that it sounds a bit different in its style and the approach to women. Good review!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I bought the ebook when it was on 1-day sale for $2.99 and plan to get to it at some point. I'm very interested!