David R. Gillham says City of Women came about from his “desire to write about history and about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances.” What I found was less of an historical novel with ordinary people becoming heroes, and more of a thriller with action stars, set in World War II Berlin. I found myself quickly captivated!
It is 1943 and Sigrid Schroder is a model German soldier’s wife, living in an apartment with her mother in law, and working at a patent office. One evening, Sigrid goes to the movies, takes a lover in the back row of the theater, and through an ensuing series of decisions that seem only to be opportunities in “extraordinary times,” joins an underground network of Germans hiding and transporting Jewish people to freedom. Once Sigrid becomes involved–through one decision to cover for a girl from her apartment building– there is no escaping the network.
There is a level of grit and harshness to the novel that I had to accept as necessary to the story (as in the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.) If you can get past it, City of Women is an exciting and worthy page turner.