City of Women by David Gillham – Audiobook Review

City of Women by David Gillham, narrated by Suzanne Bertish
Published in audio by Penguin Audio, published in print by Amy Einhorn Books, both imprints of Penguin

Synopsis:

By 1943, Berlin is essentially devoid of men. Those who are left are mostly far too old or far too young to go to war, or they’ve been left behind for some other reason. Sigrid Schroder is just one of the many women left in Berlin, living with her bitter old mother-in-law while her husband is at the front. Although she may seem like a good German wife, Sigrid is not satisfied with her life as it is, first beginning an affair with a Jewish and then befriending a somewhat odd young girl nannying for a family in her building.  Before long, Sigrid’s world view – particularly her understanding of her country and the war in which it is engaged – has been turned on its head, making her do things she would have never previously considered.

Thoughts on the story:

You may be “ho-hum”ing about yet another World War II novel, but Gillham does come at the subject with a fresh set of eyes by concentrating on the German home front. There is a quiet, slow build to City of Women that can make the early pages somewhat of a slow start, which may cause some readers to have difficulty getting into the story, I certainly did. It took me twice as long to listen to the first half of this as the second half, because I just didn’t find myself making time for it. As Gillham’s story unravels, though, I became increasingly invested in Sigrid’s life, and curious to see how her character would continue to develop. There is a pretty major character arc throughout the book, but it is all set up very well and is quite believable.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Suzanne Bertish is, I believe, a new-to-me narrator, but she does a wonderful job narrating City of Women. Part of the believability of Sigrid’s character arc is attributable to Bertish’s excellent vocal characterization. Bertish also does a great job of making clear which pieces of text are dialog, so that it is easy to follow what is happening at any given time.

For more, see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

Quite enjoyable after the slow beginning. I do think I might have connected earlier in print, but I suppose that isn’t something I can really know.

By the way! If you’re now thinking you want to read this book, but not listen, the ebook will be $2.99 on all ebook platforms on Sunday, October 21 (or so I’m told).

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene – Book Review

The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene
Published by Berkley Trade, an imprint of Penguin

Claire Harris Stone is a spoiled, oversexed socialite. Or, at least that is what the world sees, until a man from her past shows up at one of her husband’s parties. Her wealthy husband believed he was marrying a pedigreed woman who would bring him prestige, not the daughter of a pig farmer skilled at playacting. Convinced that her husband will make her disappear at his earliest possible convenience, now that she represents probably embarrassment for him, Claire gets papers from an old friend and hops a boat for Paris. Except it is 1940, and the Paris Claire finds is not the one she expected to find. After an old fling fails to take her in, Claire finds work she loves in a flower shop.

Even a simple job at a flower shop isn’t so simple, though, when your city is overrun by Nazis. Since she entered France without valid papers, she is unable to get the papers required by the Nazis, and thus can’t work, travel, or even buy food legally. When her lack of papers becomes a danger for her friends in the flower shop, Claire turns to acquaintances in the Resistance for false papers. In return, however, she must perform missions for them, spying on the Nazis in the hotels where she delivers flowers.

The Last Time I Saw Paris is an incredibly engaging read. It is one of those books where you blink and suddenly you’ve read 20 pages. Sheene’s prose certainly deserves much of the credit for this, but the real highlight of the book is Claire. She seems like such a potentially obnoxious heroine early on, although even then the you admire her strength and persistence, but her growth as a character and a person hits the perfect note. She is redeemed from her former, selfish self, but in a gradual way that seems perfectly realistic given her circumstances.

Readers looking specifically for the romance angle might be a bit let down, as that relationship is somewhat underdeveloped  as compared to Claire’s personal growth. One can see how a love would develop between asset and handler, so it isn’t entirely unbelievable, but neither is it particularly well fleshed out. However, the rest of the book is so well-drawn that, unless the romance angle is your sole reason for reading, most readers will fail to be disappointed.

Claire is a product of her time, as well as an extremely strong and capable woman. Her story fascinates and captivates, drawing the reader in and keeping the page turning. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Author’s publicist.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.