Published by Ballantine Books on April 5th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
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Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.
New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France. An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences. For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power. The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.
Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls
is a compelling story. Written in the points of view of three women and how their lives change during Hitler’s reign in power. The disregard for human life is heartbreaking and challenging to read. Kelly creates heinous scenes within the confines of Ravensbrück, an all-female concentration camp, that are genuinely earth-shattering. With the concept of cause and effect, we imagine a world where lives are crucially impacted by the choices they make. The trauma endured in Lilac Girls snuffs out all hope and happiness.
Kelly’s writing throughout Lilac Girls
is expressive and well done. There’s so much I want to say but can’t because I don’t want to give anything away. I am stuck mentally and emotionally between a strong dislike for Herta and pity for her. More specifically, as Herta’s character develops, and as she struggles with the pressure of expectations cast from those involved in her life. Kelly does an excellent job making Herta relatable, which evokes uncertainty as her story unfolds.
It is through the various disturbances
each character endures, that makes them seem real, and candidly makes this story believable. Especially as Caroline Ferriday was an actual person, who famously comes to the aid of “the rabbits.” I am in awe of the contribution she provided. Caroline’s impact, even with the distance from the chaos, is inspiring. Caroline’s house is now a historical Connecticut landmark, and her home and garden remain a staple for attracting visitors today.
Lilac Girls centers around the theme of relationships,
both familial and romantic. Kasia, a polish teen, surrenders her youth for adulthood as she attempts to cling to her family and fight to survive. To have to think about what you’re doing or saying out of fear that someone might misunderstand and report you; it’s beyond terrifying. You’ll both ache and root for Kasia, counting the pages until her voice reappears and her story continues. The relationships throughout Lilac Girls, will both strengthen and break your spirit.
I found one storyline more interesting over the other. Because of this, my progress was slow through the different sections of the book, and it took me nearly a month to finish. Overall I enjoyed this book. I was far more captivated while reading Salt to the Sea, but it’s always eye opening to read a piece set during WWII. Lilac Girls received four stars, because of how believable and well written it is. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, you’ll want to get your hands on this book.
You can thank me later…