I’m going to say this right off the bat: If you love to read historical fiction, particularly that which was inspired by the lives of real people, you need to put this book on your to-be-read list, because this is most definitely a Book Worth Reading. The only thing more impressive than the quality of the writing itself is that this is a debut novel. For a first novel, I would rank it along with Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, or Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
Lilac Girls is told from the perspective of three women. Caroline Ferriday, who spends her time volunteering at the French Consulate in New York, sending aid for orphaned children; Kasia Kuzmerick, a young woman from Poland who is part of the underground resistance working against the German occupation; and Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor who takes a job at the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
Each woman’s story is captivating and, at times, heartbreaking… in particular, the story of Kasia and her time in Ravensbrück. The details of what she went through were disturbing, but necessary to the story. All the things Kasia felt—fear, distrust, anger, hopelessness—were echoed in my heart. Sometimes I would have to stop reading a particularly distressing passage, because I was so fearful of what the outcome for Kasia would be. I felt deep concern for her almost immediately after being introduced to her character, and it only grew as her story intensified and became more dangerous.
Caroline’s altruistic efforts to give aid for those affected by the war was both heartwarming (when her efforts went according to plan) and frustrating (when she was stymied by things beyond her control).
What can I say about Herta that won’t be a potential spoiler? Hmm. The best I can say is, I disliked her from the start. There were rare moments early on when my attitude toward her softened just a bit, but that didn’t last for long.
Knowing our history is important, perhaps even more so when it comes to the most horrific times in our history. Lilac Girls, while fictional, tells the important story of such a time, and of the women who lived it and should be remembered—not only for their sufferings but for their triumphs.
I received this ARC from Netgalley and Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Title: Lilac Girls
Genre: Historical Fiction
Expected Publication: April 5, 2016 by Ballantine Books
Rating: ★★★★★ – BOOK WORTH READING
Lilac Girls is on the April 2016 Library Reads list.
The American Booksellers Association selected Lilac Girls for the April 2016 Indie Next List.