“She is charming, articulate, gracious and poised. She created the right balance of timing, content, and personality.” — The Chilton Club

Jessica Shattuck is the award-winning author of The Hazards of Good Breeding, Perfect Life, NYT bestseller The Women in the Castle and most recently Last House. Set at the end of World War II, The Women in the Castle tells the story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love and ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

Jessica’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Glamour, Mother Jones, WIRED, Believer Magazine, the Boston Globe, Open City, The Tampa Review, and The Sun, among others. She is the winner of the Frank O’Connor short story competition in 2001, and her book, The Hazards of Good Breeding was a finalist for the 2003 PEN/Winship Award, and a New York Times Notable Book. The Women in the Castle also won the 2017 New England Book Award. A graduate of Harvard University, she received her MFA from Columbia University.

Drawing from her in depth knowledge of history, the influences of her own family history (read her amazing NYT Op-Ed, “I Loved My Grandmother. But She was a Nazi”), and her passion for storytelling and writing makes for an unforgettable event. Jessica explores and offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history.

Jessica lives in Brookline, MA with her husband and three children.

Jessica's Featured Titles

Last House

William Morrow |
Literary Fiction

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Women in the Castle comes a sweeping story of a nation on the rise, and one family’s deeply complicated relationship to the resource that built their fortune and fueled their greatest tragedy, perfect for fans of The Dutch House and The Great Circle.

The war is over, and America has entered a golden age: The Age of Oil.

It’s 1953, and for Nick Taylor, WWII veteran turned company lawyer, oil is the key to the future. He takes the train into the city for work and returns to the peaceful streets of the suburbs and to his wife, Bet, former codebreaker now housewife, and their two children, Katherine and Harry. Nick comes from humble origins but thanks to his work for American Oil, he can provide every comfort for his family, including Last House, a secluded country escape. Deep in the Vermont mountains, the Taylors are free from the stresses of modern life. Bet doesn’t have to worry about the Russian H-bombs that haunt her dreams, and the children roam free in the woods. Last House is a place that could survive the end of the world.

It’s 1968, and America is on the brink of change. Protestors fill the streets to challenge everything from the Vietnam War to racism in the wake of MLK’s shooting—to the country’s reliance on Big Oil. As Katherine makes her first forays into adult life, she’s caught up in the current of the time and struggles to reconcile her ideals with the stable and privileged childhood her Greatest Generation parents worked so hard to provide. But when the Movement shifts in a more radical direction, each member of the Taylor family will be forced to reckon with the consequences of the choices they’ve made for the causes they believed in.

Spanning multiple generations and nearly eighty years, Last House tells the story of one American family during an age of grand ideals and even greater downfalls. Set against the backdrop of our nation’s history, this is an emotional tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance and what we owe each other—and captures to stunning effect the gravity of time, the double edge of progress, and the hubris of empire.

The Women In The Castle

William Morrow |
Novel

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

GoodReads Choice Awards Semifinalist 

“Moving . . . a plot that surprises and devastates.”—New York Times Book Review

“A masterful epic.”—People magazine

“Mesmerizing . . . The Women in the Castle stands tall among the literature that reveals new truths about one of history’s most tragic eras.”—USA Today

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

Perfect Life

W. W. Norton & Company |
Novel

“Jessica Shattuck’s engrossing, deceptively ambitious novel explores a wide range of subjects . . . with a shrewd and sympathetic eye.”—Tom Perrotta

“In this smart and engaging follow-up to her well-received debut, The Hazards of Good Breeding, Shattuck focuses on three privileged Gen X college roommates who are now grown up, coupled up, and raising kids in pre-recession Boston. The cracks in their ‘perfect lives’ begin to show when the most precocious of the trio, a gorgeous striver named Jenny whose husband is infertile, makes the unconventional decision to have a baby with a sperm donation from Neil, her brainy, slacker ex-boyfriend from Harvard. . . . Stylish storytelling and sharp social commentary . . . make Perfect Life both topical and eminently readable.”—People

The Hazards Of Good Breeding

W. W. Norton & Company |
Novel

The “pitch perfect” (Los Angeles Times) first novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Women in the Castle.

 

This “richly appointed and generously portrayed” (Kirkus Reviews) debut novel tells the story of a WASPy, old-Boston family coming face to face with an America much larger than the one it was born in. Told from five perspectives, the novel spans an explosive week in the life of the Dunlaps, culminating in a series of events that will change their way of life forever.

 

Caroline Dunlap has written off the insular world of the Boston deb parties, golf club luaus, and WASP weddings that she grew up with. But when she reluctantly returns home after her college graduation, she finds that not everything is quite as predictable, or protected, as she had imagined. Her father, the eccentric, puritanical Jack Dunlap, is carrying on stoically after the breakup of his marriage, but he can’t stop thinking of Rosita, the family housekeeper he fired almost six months ago. Caroline’s little brother, Eliot, is working on a giant papier-mâché diorama of their town—or is he hatching a plan of larger proportions?

 

As the real reason for Rosita’s departure is revealed, the novel culminates in a series of events that assault the fragile, sheltered, and arguably obsolete world of the Dunlaps.

 

Opening a window into a family’s repressed desires and fears, The Hazards of Good Breeding is a startlingly perceptive comedy of manners that heralds a new writer of dazzling talent.

 

New York Times Notable Selection and a Boston Globe Book of the Year.

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Writing the Past to Make Sense of the Present

Both my grandfathers fought in WWII, on opposite sides. I am obsessed with trying to understand the time periods and events that shaped my grandparents’ lives. How could ordinary Germans have embraced Nazism? How did fighting in the Pacific during WWII shape the attitudes and outlook of its veterans? In this talk I discuss using family stories and history as a springboard for my fiction, and the way writing is, for me, a way of reckoning with the past.

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From Promising Beginnings to Devastating Endings

How could ordinary Germans have embraced Nazism? How did fossil fuels become the cornerstone of modern life? These are some of the questions I have tried to answer through my fiction. In this presentation I will discuss my research and writing process, and the journey and responsibilities of a historical fiction writer to their readers and to the past.

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Last House: The Age of Oil

Oil is a cornerstone of modern life, and a defining force on the lives and fates of the characters in my novel Last House. A discussion of post WWII America, the Cold War, the Student Movement of the late 1960s… and the process of connecting the dots through narrative.

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Last House: Every Generation Fears the World is Ending

A talk that explores the theme of perennial existential anxieties– from the nuclear fears of the 1950s to the climate crises of today, and the process of exploring this through writing Last House.

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Writing as Reckoning: Harvesting Family History for Literary Inspiration

A multimedia presentation about using family stories and history as a springboard for my fiction. Both my grandfathers fought in WWII, on opposite sides. Understanding their motivations, experiences, and post-war attitudes has always been of great interest to me. In this talk I will discuss how trying to imagine and understand their lives and the lives of my grandmothers has been an inspiration and learning experience for me.

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The Women in the Castle: The German experience of WWII

Few novels about WWII are told from German characters’ perspectives. My novel, The Women in the Castle, draws inspiration from my own German grandparents’ “ordinary German” lives, as well as my research into and connection to the German Resistance movement. In this discussion, I share what it was like to write about this time and to reckon with my own family’s past.

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Living two Lives at Once: Writing and Parenting

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Craft Talk: Novel Writing from Inspiration to Execution

Jessica’s Recent Work

Honors, Awards & Recognition

NYT Bestseller
New England Book Award
Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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