Book Review: City of Women by David R. Gillham

City of Women by David R. Gillham

Published August 7, 2012

Mode read: ARC

Summary:  City of Women is set in Germany during the Second World War and tells the story of a young woman whose circumstances suddenly make it impossible to ignore Hitler’s mission. Sigrid appears to be the perfect Aryan woman, working for the cause and attending Party meetings, but when she begins an affair with an undercover Jew and meets a reckless girl with a death wish she becomes a link in the chain to move Jews out of the country.

Bechdel Test?: The title couldn’t be more appropriate. Filled with anecdotes of powerful women, there are many opportunities for them to discuss politics, religion, family life, and their innermost thoughts. My favorite scenes were when Gillham showed us the ways that the “city of women” learned to function independent of men — developing a new currency, language, and way of doing things.

Rating: 4/5

I positively adored this book! Sorry if I seem to be gushing but I was so pleasantly surprised by this novel. War novels, even when they leave out a great deal of the combat, have never been my thing. I find long descriptions of battle tedious. However this portrayal of life on the ground, of what happens for everyone not on the front lines was exactly what I wanted.

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Book Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy)

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Published July 10, 2012

*There are spoilers for A Discovery of Witches ahead.*

Summary:  This book picks up just where A Discovery of Witches left off — Matthew and Diana have been forced to flee the present because the Congregation doesn’t approve of their interspecies relationship. Though she performed the spell, Diana wasn’t sure what time they were traveling too until they got there. Elizabethan England is everything that Diana hopes it will be and more. Because it is her area of study at Oxford, she easily becomes wrapped up in experiencing life in the past and in historical inquiry. However, it’s not all fun and games in the past (and really what fun would that be for a book?) Matthew and Diana have jobs to do while in the 1500s: they must find Ashmole 782 and Diana must learn to control her magic. All of this becomes more complicated when Matthew quickly reverts to his not-so-nice sixteenth-century behaviors in the past! Everyone in the present (Ysebeau, Sarah, Marcus, etc) quickly notices that by going back the two disrupted the timeline.

Rating: 5/5
It should come as no surprise that I loved this book as much as Harkness’s last! Her characters are believable supernaturally, something that is not generally the case in the “Twilight” era. Diana is the scholar that I always wanted to be and I too always dreamed of going back to Elizabethan England. Everything that Diana and Matthew experience in the 1500s feels new and exciting, which is mostly due to Harkness’s own research interests. Deborah Harkness, like her fictional counterpart Diana, is an Elizabethan scholar. She wrote The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. I was taken with not only the historical setting but also the complex ways in which Harkness weaves together her characters. She knows so much about their back stories that it sometimes took me a little while to catch on to how certain people were connected (and it was a good thing!). I love a little challenge, and a history lesson, with my book.

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Blogger’s Note: I received a review copy of this book from Viking

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