Friday, November 16, 2012
City of Women by David R. Gillham (audio)
City of Women
by David R. Gillham
Narrated by Suzanne Bertish
Penguin Audio, 2012
13 hours and 10 minutes
source: review copy from publisher
It is 1943 - the height of the Second World War. With the men taken by the army, Berlin has become a city of women. And while her husband fights on the Eastern Front, Sigrid Schröder is, for all intents and purposes, the model 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 façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman who dreams of her former Jewish lover, who is now lost in the chaos of the war.
Sigrid's tedious existence is turned upside down when she finds herself hiding a mother and her two young daughters - whom she believes might be her lover's family - and she must make terrifying choices that could cost her everything.
City of Women is best described in two words: tense and intense. As residents of Berlin during WWII deal with the hardships of war, they are confronted daily with military actions which, for those like Sigrid Schröder, pose a moral dilemma. The constant doubts and suspicions of family, neighbors, and coworkers impart a palpable tension that is unrelenting over the course of the novel.
It took me a little longer than usual to become fully invested in this novel. However, once involved, City of Women haunted me night and day until I finished... and then for days afterward. The experience, while not exactly enjoyable, gives plenty of food for thought.
Caution: sexual content (especially in movie theaters)
A note on the audio production:
City of Women is one of the best-executed narrations I have come across in ten years of listening to audiobooks. I can't imagine another narrator doing a better job with this than Suzanne Bertish. Her voice and tone are pitch perfect; you can literally feel the tension, anger, and fear. The audio version of this novel enhances and heightens the overall experience - very highly recommended.
Read or listen?
Listen, most definitely.