A work of historical fiction in the truest sense of the phrase, this book is about the widows of the men who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler. It’s less about the actual plot to kill him and more about everything that happened to the people of Germany AFTER the war, which, I have to be honest, I had never really given much thought to before. Marianne von Lingenfels is the main widow of the group, as her husband Albrecht and best friend Connie Fledermann were the plot ringleaders, and she takes it upon herself to find and locate as many widows and other “displaced persons” as possible and reunite them with their homes and families, or what’s left of them, after the war. Alongside Marianne are Benita, Connie’s estranged wife; Anya, who’s not what she seems; and all of their young children.
Marianne and Benita are both imprisoned in one way or another after the failed assassination attempt, then released when the war ended, at which point Marianne returns to the castle she lived in before the war. It’s this castle — not a castle in a grandiose sense, but more of a style-of-homes-at-the-time sense — that’s the focal point of the story, where everything comes full circle and where Marianne seeks to bring everyone she finds. It’s where the women and their families rebuild themselves after being torn apart in so many ways, where they all come together to eat and work and attempt to regain some sense of normalcy, where they live almost completely off the land and fight off leftover Russian soldiers, revisit past ghosts, and much more.
All things must come to an end, though, so these women and their families eventually leave the castle, and all of their lives go in completely different directions. The conclusion of the novel comes half a century later in the early 90s, when the women and their families return to the castle for a big event.
I have to say, I don’t love the ending, most likely because I’ve been having a VERY hard time with, like, people getting old and aging and changing, but that’s the only complaint I have about this lovely piece of fiction. It’s thought-provoking, it’s captivating, and, against all odds, it’s uplifting.