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.
Martha Hall Kelly’s’ debut novel, LILAC GIRLS, is the story of three women whose lives are impacted by the events of WWII. Caroline, the American socialite and retired actress who spends every waking hour helping French orphans, displaced French citizens and the women of Ravensbruck, otherwise known as “Rabbits”. Kaisa, a young teenage girl caught up in the Polish resistance arrested and sent to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp, with her sister and mother. And Herta, a German medical doctor who spends the majority of the war performing medical experiments on Polish political prisoners and euthanizing Jewish prisoners.
Martha Hall Kelly hit the ball out of the park with this novel. The three women depicted in this story are so compelling and the reaction to each of them is visceral. Caroline, so sweet and honorable, is always putting everyone’s needs before her own. She works tirelessly alongside her mother for their charitable causes to the point of sacrificing her own happiness with a man she is never destined to have. Kaisa, a young teenager at the start of WWII loses almost everything she loves at the hands of the Nazi’s. Arrested with her sister and mother for political crimes, her teenage years are spent trying to survive medical experiments, dismal living conditions and death by gas or the shooting wall on a daily basis. And last but not least we have Herta, the sadistic doctor who eager to please the Reich for a surgery position, willing spends her time at Ravensbruck either killing or experimenting on girls like Kasia and her sister.
What I loved best about this book was the way the author told each girl’s story. Each chapter was dedicated to either Caroline, Kasia or Herta. I especially appreciated how the author was able to tie each girl and her storyline together with the others as the book progressed. Each character was strong in their own way. I found myself admiring and cheering on Caroline’s grit and determination for helping others. I found myself cringing at the physical and emotional pain that Kasia and her sister endured. I found myself loathing Herta and was angered by her apparent lack of remorse and her pitiful and pathetic justifications for her actions.
The accurate historic details were amazing and greatly appreciated too. I often found myself going to the internet looking up Ravensbruck or those involved in war crimes associated with this particular camp. I loved that Caroline was a real historical figure and wanted to learn more about her life’s work. I admired the history lesson that was given along with the beautiful storyline. These are events that should never be forgotten in our lifetime or the next.
This work of fiction based on historical fact is poignant and a must read for everyone. Do yourself a favor and read this book. You will be engrossed in characters that will haunt you long after the last page is turned. At the very least you will be given facts that you cannot ignore and will want to continue to research on your own.
I felt honored and appreciate being given an advanced copy of LILAC GIRLS for a fair and honest revie
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