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.
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Title: Lilac Girls
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: April 5, 2016 by Ballantine Books
About the Book
Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this powerful debut novel reveals an incredible story of love, redemption, and terrible secrets that were hidden for decades.
On the eve of a fateful war, 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 sinks deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspect neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.
For ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. But, once hired, 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 female-only Nazi concentration camp. The tragedy and triumph of their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, and Germany to Poland—capturing the indomitable pull of compassion to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.
In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of unsung women and their quest for love, happiness, and second chances. It is a story that will keep readers bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final pages.
About the Author