Book Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac GirlsLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Publisher: Ballentine Books
February 28, 2017
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

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.

Lilac Girls is the story of three women: Caroline Ferriday, Kasia Kuzmerick and Herta, Oberheuser. It’s one of those books where the women are all living separate lives but you know they will intersect at some point. It’s historical fiction set in the World War II era. Some of the characters are real people and some are not. Ravensbrück, the concentration camp and the medical experiments and other horrible things that went on there are based in fact. History is not my strong suit so I had never heard of the camp or the horrific experiments that were performed on the prisoners there.

Caroline lives a privileged life in the United States, Kasia lives in relative poverty in Poland and Herta lives in Germany, where she is studying to become a doctor. The three women are all affected by the war in different ways. I thought the author did a good job of not only developing their characters but also showing how the passing of years changed them.

Lilac Girls was my book club’s August selection. There was much to discuss. Some of the members of the book club were alive either during or shortly after WWII and were able to give their perspective about what was happening at that time. We also talked about the three women and their motivations. This book was a good choice that led to a lively discussion.

I swore off Holocaust books a while ago because they are just so depressing. However, Lilac Girls also has some happy things in it, like a love story for Caroline, which kept it from being overly dark.

Lilac Girls is a good work of historical fiction for anyone who is interested in the WWII era.

  • S.G. Wright

    It sounds like it has good storytelling and slightly reminds me of a novel I read The Women in the Castle which is also about three women who come to know each other at the end of WWII. thanks for the review.