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

Publisher's Summary:

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.

My thoughts:

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.

My rating:

20 comments:

  1. I haven't been motivated to read the book but it sounds like the audio might be just the thing to pull me in!

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    1. Rhapsodyinbooks - Audio is definitely the way to go with this one!

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  2. I've just started getting into audiobooks for my long commute. This one will definitely be added to the list!

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    1. Kathleen - I started listening to audiobooks just over 10 years ago when I was spending hours in the car each day. They were a lifesaver! Thankfully, I spend much less time driving now, but the audiobook habit has continued.

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  3. This one definitely was a pleasurable read...it left me jittery and anxious and maybe even a little disgusted. But it was tense and intense. Hard to say I loved it but it was memorable. Which is a little confusing! I also wasn't as blown away by the narrator as you, but she was good. Very harsh, but appropriate for the characters.

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    1. Sandy - Yes, definitely memorable. The narration was really the high point for me. It added so much to the overall feeling. Bertish's voice was harsh, raw, or angry in all the right places... and absolutely perfect for the story. I marvel at the perfection of this pairing!

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  4. I have this in print and on audio - you've convinced me to go with the audio version.

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    1. Kathy - You won't be sorry! AUdio is definitely the way to go with this book.

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  5. I tried to read this a few months ago and couldn't connect with the narrative. It sounds like I should try listening to it instead!

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    1. Anbolyn - It did take a long time to get into the book, even on audio. There is almost a detached feeling to the narrative, but the audio is very powerful!

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  6. Audio, definitely. I loved this one.

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    1. Beth F - I can't get over how well-matched the narrators voice was to the narrative. Whar an outstanding production!

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  7. definitely looks interesting. going on my wish list

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    1. Brenda - This is definitely not a feel-good book, and I'd recommend avoiding it during the holiday season. Add it to your winter reading list!

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  8. I bought the book when it was a Kindle sale for 2.99 but now I wish I would've bought the audible version!! Still, I think I'm for some thought provoking reading!!

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    1. Staci - You are most definitely in for a gripping experience!

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  9. This review reminds me of the German film, A Woman in Berlin, based on the anonymous 1954 memoir of a woman who survived the Soviet occupation of WWII. It is a difficult film to watch, but a well-made one. Not, as you say of this book, a good film choice for spreading cheer during the holiday season. Man's Inhumanity to Woman accounts for a large part of the theme. Many Germans were outraged by the memoir and its story of survival through collaboration with the enemy.

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    1. Fay - That sounds fascinating... off to check Netflix. Thanks for telling me about it.

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  10. Goodness, I've been hearing nothing but good things about this one but you've by far and away said it in a way that has convinced me to read another book about World War II. And by "read" it would appear I should mean "listen to."

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    1. Lisa - Audio is definitely the way to go with this one!

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. These conversations are my favorite part of blogging. Please check back, I almost always respond to comments!

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