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.
Title: The Lilac Girls
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Historical Fiction | Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
Published: April 5, 2016
Format: Kindle edition, 496 pages
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
FTC Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed are mine.
I find it amazing The Lilac Girls is Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel. The painstaking years researching first and then writing this work indicates a dedication to a story she discovered in a visit to the home of one of our country’s and WWII’s lesser known heroines, Caroline Ferriday. Caroline’s story pestered Kelly until she began researching all things related to her history. And thus discovered the story of The Lilac Girls.
In the midst of eloquent writing and skilled character and plot development, Kelly unravels one of the Nazis’ most horrific of all the atrocities committed in WWII. In a camp built for women only, located outside Fürstenberg, Germany, the Ravensbrück Re-education Center was erected under the pretense of teaching women useful skills in helping the Germans win the war. However, this retraining never occurred.
Unfortunately, Ravensbrück became the center of the medical experimentations performed on 74 Polish women taken from their village of Lublin and transported to this place of horror.
Kelly has used three narrators to tell the story of these 74 women: Caroline Ferriday, a debutante and former Broadway actress; Kasia Kuzmerick, a young prisoner at the camp; and Herta Oberheuser, the only woman physician on staff at Ravensbrück.
It is clear to the reader from the moment these women are taken captive and transported that they form a bond as if they were all one family. Looking out for each other, making certain each had enough to eat from their slim rations, ensuring each was kept from harm’s way. Yet, there comes a time when all their efforts to protect one another become fruitless.
Reading the cruelties inflicted upon them at the hands of their captors is difficult. The story becomes dark and almost hopeless in feeling. Yet, most reading The Lilac Girls will remember or, at least, will have heard vague references to the experimentations done by the Nazis in WWII. These are stories that must be told in order to honor the victims, and we must read them to keep the stories and lives of these people alive.
The stories of Caroline Ferriday, Kasia Kuzmerick, and Herte Oberheuser come together to bring the hidden work of the medical staff at Ravensbrück into the awareness of other countries and peoples. To share more with you here would be unfair as a reviewer as it would strip you of the possibility of learning how this discovery came to light and thereby reading a well-written and remarkable book.
Martha Hall Kelly has taken one of the most horrible nightmares of the Nazis’ injustices to humanity during the war and turned it into a story of love, redemption, and revelation. Lives are changed, friendships are forged, and a lesson for the decades is passed along to Kelly’s readers.
Martha Hall Kelly is a native New Englander but has become nomadic, splitting her time between New York City, Martha’s Vineyard and Atlanta, Georgia. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years and raised three splendid children, while researching Lilac Girls, her first novel. When Martha is not chasing after her new puppy she is hard at work on her next book. You’ll find more info about the true story behind Lilac Girls at her website: http://www.marthahallkelly.com and lots of visual inspiration for the book on the Pinterest account she is madly in love with.
Connect with Martha Hall Kelly:
Note: Images and synopsis via Goodreads.