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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intense and Compelling Read
In David R Gillham's remarkable debut novel 'City of Women' the city is Berlin in 1943 at the height of the Second World War, and one of the women we meet is Sigrid Schroder, in her late twenties, blonde, beautiful and married to Kaspar who is fighting at the Eastern Front. Sigrid works as a stenographer for the Reichspatentamt, the Patent Office, and is coping under...
Published 23 months ago by Susie B

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but the story fails to convince.
This started off as a well written book, creating a good atmosphere and with interesting characters. However I grew disenchanted with it because 2 important plot developments seemed very contrived. A chance encounter in a cinema leads our "heroine" to have a dangerous relationship with a Jew. Also the way she forces the girl in her apartment block to reveal that she is...
Published 3 months ago by Mr. S. Bates


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intense and Compelling Read, 28 Aug 2012
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: City of Women (Paperback)
In David R Gillham's remarkable debut novel 'City of Women' the city is Berlin in 1943 at the height of the Second World War, and one of the women we meet is Sigrid Schroder, in her late twenties, blonde, beautiful and married to Kaspar who is fighting at the Eastern Front. Sigrid works as a stenographer for the Reichspatentamt, the Patent Office, and is coping under stressful circumstances, living with her unpleasant, critical mother-in-law, queuing for food and attempting to make their rations last, while all the time trying not to let the oppressions of the Nazi regime affect her too deeply.

The Berlin in this story is a bleak and austere city where its inhabitants exist in an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion, and where some have no qualms about informing on their neighbours to the Gestapo. Sigrid, therefore, needs to be very careful because although to outward appearances she appears the ideal German soldier's wife, she is leading a double life. Sigrid is having a passionate love affair with a Jewish man, Egon Weiss, who although married, is separated from his wife and children when they are forced to go into hiding. If having a Jewish lover is not perilous enough, Sigrid then becomes friendly with a young woman, Ericha, who lives in her apartment block and Ericha is another woman who is leading a double life. Ericha, young, brave and beautiful, risks her life daily by working for an underground organization providing safe houses for Jews and helping them to escape deportation, and it is through her friendship with Ericha that Sigrid realizes that she can no longer ignore the plight of those being persecuted by the Nazi regime, resulting in her becoming a key participant in Ericha's organization. When, by chance, she becomes involved in helping a Jewish woman and her two young children, who might just possibly be Egon's wife and daughters, Sigrid is placed in a difficult situation, and matters become even more complicated when two sisters and their wounded officer brother, Wolfram, move into Sigrid's apartment block, especially when Wolfram shows that he is sexually interested in Sigrid and that it would be in her interests to comply with his desires. And then, Kaspar, Sigrid's husband, returns home wounded from the front.

This is a rather remarkable debut novel; beautifully written, gripping, sensual and thought-provoking. As the author says in his Afterword, it is about ordinary people making hard decisions in extraordinary times; he says: "Sigrid Schroder helps a young woman [Ericha] evade an arrogant police detective, simply because she does not like bullies. A few months later Sigrid is being chased by the Gestapo through a train station, with the lives of four other people in her hands. How did she get there?" If you do decide to read this book, you will discover just how Sigrid finds herself in her situation and of the choices she has to make along the way and, at times, you might even ask yourself, as I did, what you would do if you were in Sigrid's shoes. Sigrid is not a character who necessarily evokes instant sympathy and we don't get to know her and her motivations quite as much as I would have liked, but she is a character who improves on acquaintance and, as we read through the novel, we learn there is a lot more to Sigrid than we see on the surface, especially when we get to the final part of the story. David Gillham certainly seems to have researched his subject well and he has provided his readers with what appears to be a skilful and atmospheric rendering of Hitler's Berlin, making this novel a fascinating, intense and compelling read.

4.5 Stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but the story fails to convince., 15 April 2014
By 
Mr. S. Bates (Saltburn, England.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: City of Women (Paperback)
This started off as a well written book, creating a good atmosphere and with interesting characters. However I grew disenchanted with it because 2 important plot developments seemed very contrived. A chance encounter in a cinema leads our "heroine" to have a dangerous relationship with a Jew. Also the way she forces the girl in her apartment block to reveal that she is helping to hide Jews and politicals on the run, does not ring true. In a city full of spies and informers you would have thought she would have been much more careful. Although the book is about women it is obvious it is written by a man because of the racy, rather gratuitous sex scenes. After reading a third of it I abandoned this book as I no longer found it convincing. It's a decent enough read but not top notch. If anyone wants to read a novel that really conveys what it was it was like to live in Berlin during the Second World War, try "Alone in Berlin" by Hans Fallada. His novel is far more tense, realistic and convincing than Gillham's, in my opinion.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read this book, 29 Jan 2013
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This review is from: City of Women (Paperback)
This is the best book that I have read for a long time. It is really well written. A view of WW2 from the perspective of an ordinary German woman, who takes on an extraordinary role.
This is a real page turner, that leaves the reader wondering " what would you do?"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an eye-opening page turner, 14 Aug 2013
This review is from: City of Women (Paperback)
City of Women is Gilhams debut novel and for a first time out this is a really interesting
subject to take on, the effects of world war two on the German citizens and in particular
the women who are not on the frontline, but are in many ways in far more challenging situations. Set in Berlin 1943,the women are having to cope with rationing, nightly bombing by the RAF on the city, daily doses of propaganda from the Nazi regime, and the crippling lack of basic trust in society as neighbours, friends, work colleagues and even relatives resort to spying on each other, reporting to the Gestapo about even minor infringements.
Its a tricky place to live, and then it gets much worse for the lead character Sigrid,(whose
husband is a soldier on the russian front), when she gets involved at first unwittingly with
helping fellow Germans hide Jews who are still living in the city.
At the same time, Sigrid begins an affair - (we understand her marriage is rather dull)
with a Jew, and later gets intimate with a German officer who has moved into her apartment
building. There are some pretty racy scenes, and these are the parts of the book which will likely put it out of contention for any major prizes, and you could debate whether some of these scenes which can be quite animalistic and brutal were really necessary. This is when it
borders on being trashy. You'll note that the cinema which is a place frequently in the story sees more action on its seats than it ever does on the screen! However its redeemed I feel by some scintillating diaglogue between Sigrid and her lovers where things are startlingly revealed with such candour, that I almost felt part of the scene itself.
It brings up questions about how much the German citizens really believed the things the Nazi
party were telling them, and how that belief left them shocked when they found they were not
the victors.
It also enlightens those who didn't already know, to the use of Jews by the Gestapo to flush
out and catch other Jews who were still living in the city, hidden. A sadly true fact but
fleshed out here to reveal why someone might do that. Self preservation has become a by word
for everybody, Jew and non-Jew alike, as society is stripped of its moral core.

There is clearly alot of historical research gone on behind this book, though its not in any
way a history lesson. And it doesn't have an agenda. There is no redemption here for any
of the characters, no-one even those who help the vulnerable are saintly, all have been
corrupted by the regimes hold on society.

Its a great read, an eye opening page turner. Some of the prose could be better perhaps, in the hands of a more experienced novellist with a little more polish, it could have been a modern classic.
What is really great is that its a story that focuses on the women during this time. So many things we read/see like films etc are based on the activities of men. Here the key roles
are all women and that is so often ignored or thought not important. This redresses that ridiculous imbalance in war time stories.
I really hope someone has bought the rights to this book, because it would make a brilliant two part adaption for TV with the female leads and their very uncompromising actions
both in political & espionage activity and their emotional & sex lives.

Read, enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars City of Women by David Gilham, 26 Feb 2014
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This review is from: City of Women (Kindle Edition)
This was a Book Club choice so not of my own picking. That being said once started I could not put it down. I did read into the wee small hours of the morning to finish it! The characters were so well written and the plot very absorbing. I am aware of Britain during WW2 and how the women left at home fared but had never stopped to consider those of Germany. A very human and humane story and one that is totally recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exercellent, 23 Feb 2014
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This review is from: City of Women (Kindle Edition)
A somewhat chilling story in places of life & love in Berlin at that time. Addictive read and a great insight to the lives of ordinary Berliners during the Nazi regime.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 17 Feb 2014
By 
L. Grant "lucyinthesky" (Paris, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: City of Women (Paperback)
Wonderful book and one of the best I've read in a long time. Other reviewers have given a summary of the plot and characters. I'll just say do read it, please.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good yarn, 30 Jan 2014
By 
Zangiku (Kyoto, Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: City of Women (Paperback)
altho' often marred by pretentious writing, this is a magnetic tale with historically authentic & engrossing atmosphere, from which there is much to learn. the well-drawn heroine is a rare achievement for a male author. even her sexuality rings true, and her evolution is believable and inspiring. sadly, not all the characters are so well developed, making the story uneven.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything about this book is excellent, 30 Dec 2013
By 
Robin Webster "Robin" (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: City of Women (Paperback)
Gillham does a terrific job of taking us back in time to 1943 in war-torn Berlin. This is a time when cracks were beginning to appear in the German people's faith in the Nazi regime. They had been told that the war in Russia was all but won, but this dream was shattered by the fall of Stalingrad and the total annihilation of a German army. Not only that, but after a year's absence, the RAF were again bombing Berlin on a nightly basis. The Nazi's response to this, in a desperate effort to distract the German people from their plight was to declare total war and speed up the evacuation of the Jews to the death camps in Poland. Young boys and older men were being subscripted into the army and sent to the frontline. Berlin was indeed a city of women, amputees, children and old men. However, there were still plenty of people who stood behind Hitler and willing to denounce anyone who criticized him.
Against this background we are introduced to our main character Sigrid Schroder. She is a young woman who taken at face value is a typical soldier's wife. Her husband is fighting on the Eastern Front while she lives with and looks after her mother-in law. But Sigrid has her secrets. In her quiet moments she dreams of a past affair with a Jewish lover who now appears to have disappeared. She tries to get on with her life without making too many waves, going to work and living off her rations. Then one day, while she is sitting in a cinema, a young neighbour, Ericha Kohl, grabs her arm and asked for her help in deceiving the Gestapo. From that moment, Sigrid is drawn into the German resistant, helping Jews, homosexuals and deserters to evade the clutches of the Nazi regime.
Everything about this book is excellent. There is a real depth to the literary style of this author, plus a range of interesting characters, as well as a number of surprising twists and turns to the book which sweeps you along and keeps you turning the pages.
This is the author's first novel. I can't wait for the next one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Evokes an Era So Well, 21 May 2014
By 
Mr. Peter Steward "petersteward" (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: City of Women (Kindle Edition)
Books about the Jewish plight in the Second World War are ten a penny, so what distinguishes this from so many others?

Well firstly it's a man writing a book from the viewpoint of women, secondly it evokes the feel of Berlin in the 1940s very well and thirdly it is a very good first novel and so well researched.

I wasn't quite sure whether the main character is a genuinely kind and caring human being or something a little more. Certainly her ability to "sleep around" conjures up a feel that there may have been more to Sigrid than at first meets the eye. She may have been a bit more calculating than you at first imagine.

It is a well crafted story with come solid characterisation and I was surprised to find that the author is American. it certainly doesn't have the feel of an American novel.

The best parts of the book are the evocation of fear, mistrust and sheer hatred in Berlin and the way humanity and kindness can cut through, but at a price. It also makes the reader associate with German Society from within rather than looking at it through the eyes of the allies. Overall a well crafted book that was slightly slow to start but which became very appealing.
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City of Women
City of Women by David Gillham (Paperback - 5 Sep 2013)
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