City of Women

Written by David R. Gillham
Review by Wisteria Leigh

City of Women takes a chilling look at the unspeakable limits reached by the women of WWII Berlin and the stress and fear that shaped their lives. It is 1943, and Sigrid Schröder is the dutiful wife of a German soldier who is fighting on the front lines south of Moscow. Her marriage is mostly routine, and she lives with her critical mother-in-law. Early on, Sigrid demonstrates her desire to help the other side when she assists Ericha, a young girl running from the Gestapo. With a heightened sense for survival at all costs, coupled with her compulsion to aid the underground fight, Sigrid accepts the increased risk.

One day she meets Egon, a young and handsome stranger. She thrives on danger, and with her capricious desire, she can’t help but become Egon’s lover. He is extremely taciturn, and as he eludes her questions, her suspicions are raised. Under the watchful eyes of her neighbors, mother-in-law, and the Gestapo, she burrows beneath her ordinary life as a stenographer and lives in a secretive world of intrigue and peril.

The author’s characters live and breathe with full dimension. Sigrid has boundless love and iron nerves that will assure her place in literary history, as do Ericha and Egon. David Gillham’s writes with a poetic precision; his beautiful, lilting phrases present a multisensory and more than satisfying read: “It was the sort of cold that followed you inside, that searched your clothes for gaps and penetrated you slowly, until it crept into your heart and chilled your blood.”

An elegiac story, emotionally seductive with tense moments throughout, City of Women has plot twists that will keep readers guessing. The wrath of the Gestapo, the fear from “catchers,” and the risky existence of the Berlin underground all combine to create a terrifying, historically realistic atmosphere that lingers.