Laura's Reviews > City of Women

City of Women by David R. Gillham
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's review
Dec 21, 2015

it was amazing
bookshelves: medium-audiobooks, favorites
Read from August 03 to 15, 2012

There's something very eye-catching about the cover of City of Women, and I have to admit it's the reason I first considered it. When I received a copy in the mail from Penguin Audio and read the synopsis, I was convinced I would love it. I have a small obsession for anything set during World War II. Even though it was a sad, horrific time in history, I've always found it interesting. I was correct in my assumption that I would enjoy this, though I have to say it took me to places I didn't really want to go. Even though I occasionally felt that I had to get away from it for a while, finishing it felt incredibly rewarding.

Sigrid Schroeder is an incredibly complicated character. There were times when I loved her, times when I pitied her, and times when I hated her. In a story about how far people will go to survive, she makes a big impression. I ended up respecting her a lot because even though her intentions in the beginning were anything but noble, she has a really good grasp on what she could live with and what she couldn't. There are several more characters that I would consider important, but I don't want to spend this entire review talking about characters, partly because Sigrid is the most important one and the only one that has a real development. I will say that I think David Gillham does some amazing character writing, and I loved the raw complexity that every person in this story had. People aren't always what they seem, and that really shows when they're forced into life or death situations.

As for Suzanne Bertish, I never had a doubt in my mind that she was Sigrid Schroeder. Bertish seamlessly switches voices for characters. Her low voice lends itself very well to the male characters. I could almost pick everyone out just by the voices she used. There is a distinct sound to Sigrid's voice, to Egon's voice, to Erika's voice. I thought she was superb from start to finish. I did notice some mispronounced German, which could be a difference of dialect. I don't know enough about Germany to make a call on that. I just know she pronounces it differently than I learned it. But I think her good pacing, syntax, and emotion really outshine any flaws there might be.

One thing that struck me early on was the detail. The street names, the German terms and slang. It all brings Berlin alive in my head. A less researched book would only contain passing references to the setting, but WWII Berlin is there, present and looming. That can be a difficult thing to find in a book. Sometimes details are important and I was thrilled that Gillham paid such good attention to that. Something else that won me over later in the book was the twists. Gillham spent all this time laying everything out on the table and then with swiftly turned everything I believed on its head. It was brilliant and it actually turned things around for me. There was a moment about 3/4 of the way through when things were so hopeless that I was asking myself why on earth I was listening to something so sad. I was trying to wrestle through everything I'd listened to to find the point, but it wasn't given to me until the end. And when the last sentence was spoken, I knew I had just finished a really great book.

City of Women is a melancholy book, full of death and betrayal, but if you're willing to brave the emotional ride, it's worth a read. It's definitely worth a listen. Suzanne Bertish does a terrific job with the narration. I highly recommend this book, especially to anyone interested in WWII era fiction.

Disclaimer: I received this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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Reading Progress

08/03/2012 "Just finished the first disc and I'm already in love with this story."
08/24/2013 marked as: listened-to
11/14/2015 marked as: read

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