Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Author Website: http://www.marthahallkelly.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt
Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and 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.
I was drawn to Lilac Girls for a very personal reason. My mother, her sister, and their mother were also in a concentration camp in Germany during the war. My mother has told me the stories of their time there. They were lucky. My grandmother (oma) spoke 7 Slavic languages and was used as a translator and that got them released from the camp. The tales my mother told me were horrific, but I knew there were others that were much, much worse. This tells the story of what happened in Ravensbruck, Germany. One of the only all women’s concentration camps, it was also the birthplace of some horrific surgical experiments performed in the German name of “research”. Therefore the poor Polish ladies that were “chosen” to be participants took on the name of “Lapins” or rabbits. They were the lab rabbits. This book blends a wonderful narrative about two real life women and one fictional lady who was a prisoner. Some of the story is taken from factual information the author researched. Other is built upon from information she found and made into some fictional dialogue and occurrences. Poignant and at times horrifying, there is no way to read this book without being moved.
Lilac Girls is written in several parts, each lady with their own voice. Two are fact based, Caroline Ferriday and Dr Herta Oberheuser. The third is based on the information gathered from survivors of the horrific Ravensbruck and turned into Kasia Kuzmerick. Author Martha Hall Kelly brings the characters lives to the reader, giving us insight into how they ended up where they did, why they did what they did and how their lives came to together. I do not want to dwell too much on these characters as you really need to read this book and find out what they have to say. I will say that since reading it, I was drawn to find out more about the factual characters. Carolina Ferriday was a true humanitarian in every sense of the word. She not only worked to help the Rabbits of Ravensbruck, but helped the women of Hiroshima. Before the war involved the USA she worked in the French Embassy and sent car packages to orphans and those in need. She never gave up trying to make the world a better place.
When the reader meets Herta Oberneuser, we see an ambitious woman in a time where it was not done. While we know what she did is horrible, demonic even, the author gives us a behind the scenes look at what drove her to do what she did. This is different I think from a lot of books written about the subject. Also Kasia Kuzmerick’s story is impressive. We get to see how being in the wrong place at the wrong time could bring an entire family devastation during this time. Some of what is in this book is heart wrenching, and beyond heinous and atrocious, but it is what happened. We need to know these things. It was so much more than powerful for me to know what could have been with my mother and her family.
I urge you to take the time and read this haunting fact based novel. Lilac Girls is everything and more than I thought it would be. The women in this book come to life on the page, you get to know their thoughts, what they were feeling, what they had become and how. I enjoyed the bit of romance in their lives, but it was not over done which I prefer. I cannot begin to relate how deeply this book impacted me. Author Kelly’s writing was perfect for the tale it told. I do not think there will ever be a time when we do not need to be reminded of the atrocities that occurred during WWII and this book does that. Yet it does it with the story of 3 completely different woman that maybe have a bit of all of us in them if we just open our eyes to see. Thank you to this author for opening up this wound for us to learn from and see through different views. Wonderful and horrendous at the same time. You have to read this book.