Published by Ballantine Books on April 5, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Amazon Vine
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.
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.
In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of unsung women and their quest for love, freedom, and second chances. It is a story that will keep readers bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final pages.
LILAC GIRLS has one good and one bad thing about it: Caroline Ferriday.
The book is written from the perspectives of three very different women: Caroline Ferriday, New York socialite and charity worker; Kasia Kuzmerick, Polish teenager, resistance member, and Ravensbrück rabbit; and Herta Oberheuser, the sole female German doctor at Ravensbrück.
Now, why do I say Caroline is good and bad? Because for the majority of LILAC GIRLS, I couldn’t stand her chapters. We go from Kasia suffering at Ravensbrück to Caroline being miserable because her married beau disappears after Germany takes France. I wanted to skip Caroline’s chapters, because I just did not care about her and Paul, and her whinging over him got old. I’m always picky about romances; Caroline and Paul had no chemistry for me and I winced whenever he showed up. Caroline’s war year chapters dragged down LILAC GIRLS for me.
I was much more interested in Kasia’s story, because I haven’t seen the Rabbits mentioned in a lot of WWII historical fiction*. Even Herta’s chapters were intriguing, although I wish the author had spent more time on her moral transformation, going from reluctant to kill to eager to practice surgery on unwilling test subjects.
But at the end of the book, I learned Caroline was a real person. And that was the best part of LILAC GIRLS for me: the book brought to light an incredibly important person. With all the reading I’ve done on WWII, Caroline Ferriday is someone I should’ve heard about, but she’s been forgotten to history.
The other part of LILAC GIRLS I appreciated is that the author continued the book after the war years. A lot of WWII historical fiction is set in 1939-1945, and that’s it. Story over after the end of the war. But here, we stayed with the characters for a lot longer. By continuing Kasia’s story, the author showed how the war didn’t really end for many of the victims.
*ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein was my first introduction to the plight of the Rabbits, and I highly recommend it.
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