1943 Berlin. The title of this book refers to the fact that at this point in WWII, Berlin is basically populated mostly by women holding the home front together.
Sigrid is the wife of a soldier away at war. Middle-aged, living in a drab apartment with her horrible mother-in-law, she goes through the motions every day. She works at an office, tries to make her rations go as far as they can, tries to keep her had down and be a model citizen.
She has desires, though. Sigrid can’t stop thinking about her former lover, who is Jewish. She has lost contact with him and is frantic to hear whether he has managed to get out of Germany. There are other people who enter her life, as well: the high-ranking Nazi officer and his pregnant wife who move in to her building, the young girl downstairs working as a mother’s helper who is more than she seems.
Soon Sigrid is involved with things and people she knew existed, but was careful to avoid. She is faced with the choice of either continuing to ignore the reality around her, or to face it and do what is right.
I enjoyed this book immensely. Sigrid felt real to me: intelligent, passionate – she is compelling, a hausfrau who rises above what is expected of her. What struck me the most, I think, is how nuanced many of the characters are. Like real people, they are neither completely good nor bad.
I highly recommend this book.
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