Estelle: City of Women by David R. Gillham

City of Women by David R. GillhamCity of Women by David R. Gillham
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam (Part of Penguin)
Pages: 400
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: historical fiction, World War II, strong women
Format read: ARC paperback from Putnam (Thank you!)

Summary: In 1943, Sigrid is going through the motions — work, home, and sleep — while haunted by her Jewish lover, as her husband fights in the war. Soon she gets roped into helping to care for Jews looking for safety and finds herself with a family that could be her lover’s wife and children.

“You avert your eyes enough times and you finally go blind.”

Beautifully written and completely heart wrenching, City of Women is one of those books you are going to have trouble putting down.

Transporting you back to 1943, in the middle of World War II, Sigrid is a woman haunted by memories of her Jewish lover as she gets up, goes to work, and eats an unfortunate meal with her mother-in-law everyday while her husband is away fighting in the war.

Due to circumstances beyond her control, Sigrid falls into a friendship with Ericha, the caretaker of the children living on the floor below her. Ericha is part of a secret operation that is housing escaped Jews and hopefully moving them closer and closer to safety. Always drawn to reckless behavior, Sigrid agrees to be an accomplice and she is soon positive she is helping to care for the family of her lover.

Ericha morphs into an intriguing sidekick for Sigrid, and in their own way, help one another out in unexpected ways. I love how passionate Ericha was about their cause and what their mission was accomplishing. While she proved to be little irresponsible and immature during the novel, she was alarmingly and surprisingly wise beyond her years when it came to coming to the aid of others. She was willing to go above and beyond, and take excruciating chances.

Gillham does an impressive job of creating such tangible imagery with words but cloaking the story with a gray and stormy feeling for the novel’s entirety. Sigrid is easy to care for and connect with – from her passionless marriage and her difficulty with conceiving. She’s extremely sensual (in fact the whole book is) yet at the same time completely maternal and lives to care for people who deserve to be cared for.

During such an intense period of time when people are not sure if their families will ever be the same or if their country will ever feel like their own again, Gillham has presented a unique perspective of the female experience. It was common practice for women to find comfort with other men, and for others to tattle on those with lack of love for Hitler. It was not an easy time to trust anyone, and therefore, it was a lonely time for all. You never knew who was going to turn their back on you or put you in jeopardy somehow.

For someone who hasn’t read a historical fiction novel in quite some time, I was surprised at just how swept up I became in Sigrid’s story, after the first 50 pages or so. There were many twists and turns, discoveries, disappointments, and tragedies during the short amount of time we get to spend with her (and believe it or not, 400 pages go by so quickly). Despite a few of the German names that stopped me in my tracks, I would not let myself do anything else until I reached the final page.

Even so, once I was done, my mind didn’t drift too far from Sigrid and her story for the rest of the evening and even until the next week. City of Women is a powerful story that forces women to be independent when their world is thrown so off balance and nothing is certain. It’s about love, sex, friendship, flawed women discovering this untapped strength and bravery, and doing the right thing even if it means taking a risk. Gillham has presented a more than impressive debut, the product of obvious extensive research, and one that reminds us of the compassionate people that roam our world even when in the most hopeless of situations.

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

The Big Kids’ Table: Adult Fiction/Non-Fic Picks (8/12)

I can’t believe summer is more than halfway over already. Any minute New York is going to be decking the halls with holiday decor. (I’m not kidding.) Let’s focus on the book, shall we? Here are a handful of upcoming adult releases I discovered in the pages of Publishers Weekly. They sound like winners to me! What do you think?

Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl (Goodreads)
Genre: romance Publication Date: August 28th, 2012
hy I picked it: I believe Dahl is a friend of Jennifer Echols’ & there’s a cowboy. Enough said.
GR Description: Can a city girl make it in the wild, wild West? For makeup artist Grace Barrett, Hollywood is less the land of golden opportunity and more the land of difficult divas, cheating boyfriends and unemployment. So when her great-aunt offers her a free place to stay in Jackson Hole, Grace thinks she’ll spend a little time in the sticks to figure out her life, and then move somewhere exciting to live out her dreams. But it turns out that there are a few more thrills in this small town than Grace was expecting…. Cole Rawlins is a rugged Wyoming cowboy born and bred. Yet he can’t help but be drawn to the fascinating big-city girl who moves in across from him. As they discover a sizzling attraction, it’s Grace who finds herself surprised. Cole’s the only man who’s ever dared to get close enough to see through her tough facade. And his mysterious past only makes him sexier.

Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Rubick (Goodreads)
Genre: Historical Fiction Publication Date: September 4th, 2012
Why I picked it: Hemingway, literary genius, and setting: Key West. Perfection.
GR Description: In Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match…and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway.

Broadway Tails by Bill Beloni (Goodreads)
Genre: theater non-fiction Publication Date: September 4, 2012
What I picked it: This is such a cute premise & I love how animals found a better life as part of the theater.
GR Description: In this heartwarming book, he tells the true stories of “throw-away” animals who came back to work with some of entertainment’s biggest names, names like Bernadette Peters, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mike Nichols, the New York City Ballet, and many more. This updated edition includes an account of Berloni’s search for the newest Sandy to star with everyone’s favorite red-headed orphan.

Losing My Sister by Judy Goldman (Goodreads)
Genre: Memoir Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Why I picked it: Siblings and emotional overload. There’s nothing like a hard hitting memoir.
GR Description: Goldman’s was an idyllic childhood, charmed even, filled with parental love and sisterly confidences. Growing up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Judy and her older sister, Brenda, did everything together. Though it was clear from an early age that their personalities were very different (Judy was the “sweet” one, Brenda, the “strong” one), they continued to be fairly inseparable into adulthood. But the love between sisters is complex. Though Judy and Brenda remained close, Goldman recalls struggling to break free of her prescribed role as the agreeable little sister and to assert herself even as she built her own life and started a family. The sisters’ relationship became further strained by the illnesses and deaths of their parents, and later, by the discovery that each had tumors in their breasts—Judy’s benign, Brenda’s malignant. The two sisters came back together shortly before the possibility of permanent loss became very real.

She Matters: A Life of Friendships by Susana Sonnenberg (Goodreads)
Genre: memoir
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Why I picked it: Her Last Death, by Sonnenberg, was one of the most engaging (and devastating) memoirs I ever read. Can’t wait to pick up another book by her.
GR Description: Childhood friendships, friendships with older women, friendships that play out with the passion and intensity of love affairs, the friendships between new mothers–each has its own subtleties, its own lessons that Sonnenberg examines and understands with astounding acuity. Sonnenberg’s style is investigative and ruminative; the result is candid and fearlessly observed portraits of the nuances and complexities of friendships that become universally recognizable.

The Big Kids’ Table: Adult Fiction Picks (7/12)

Why, good afternoon, friends! Hope you are doing well! Just a few more hours before the weekend can begin! I know I’m looking forward to it! It seems like forever since I did one of these, but here I am back to give you a few adult fiction suggestions for your reading lists. This one is going to be a little bit different because I’m kicking things off with a bonus v-log!

The treasures I mentioned:

Jack 1939 by Francine Mathews (Goodreads) — July 5th release
What the Nanny Saw by Fiona Neill (Goodreads) — August 2nd release
City of Women by David Gillham (Goodreads) — August 7th release

Thanks to Lydia at Penguin for providing me with the above titles!

All Summer Long by Susan Mallery (RatherBeReadingblog.com)

All Summer Long by Susan Mallery (Goodreads) — July 31st release
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green  (Goodreads) — August 21st release

Have you cross the realm into adult fiction lately? Anything worth noting?