Monday, April 25, 2016

Julie's Review: Lilac Girls

Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Series: None
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Ballatine Books
Pages: 496
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: One person can make a difference
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: 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.  

Review: Lilac Girls is a novel that will keep you thinking throughout the novel. Just when you think you've read a lot of historical fiction about World War II, along comes a book that exposes you to something you hadn't known. Oh the atrocities that were done on humans by other humans is truly mystifying to me. I was intrigued and horrified about how Ms. Kelly was going to make these stories intersect. I was hoping that there would be justice for Kasia and the other women from the Ravensbruck camp.

I found Caroline Ferriday to be a modern day heroine; a person who is to be admired and revered. She is a woman who has a huge heart and sees her life as a way to help those who need it the most. When we first meet Caroline she works for the French Consolate in New York working to help families that are looking to escape the war in Europe and relocate to the US. She also puts together care packages for a variety of orphanages in France.

It is perhaps Kasia's story that is the most horrific, brave and hopeful. Her story is the one that will rock you to your core. She carries around her guilt until it weighs so heavily on her that she doesn't know how to enjoy the life that she has been given. She closes herself off to those the closest to her, even her sister Zuzanna who she went through everything with in the camp. She doesn't know how to move on. She might be free of the camp but she's not free of the darkness it instilled in her.

We are also told the story of Herta Oberhauser who is a young doctor looking for a job and ends up at Ravensbruck. She is a dedicated Reich doctor who doesn't question the orders that she is given. She doesn't question the inhumane surgeries that she performs on young women. Even years later, after she is released from her prison sentence, she has little to no remorse. She said she was just doing her job.

It is easy to see how Herta and Kasia's story are going to intersect but I was curious how Caroline was going to fit in.  I loved how she fit into Kasia's life and how she helped Kasia get closure.

When you read  Lilac Girls , you need to read the Author's Note at the end, it is amazing the amount of work and sheer love that went into this novel. It was a labor of love for her and one that took years to come together. I have a great amount of respect for authors in general but historical authors have to be one of most extraordinary ones because they bring historical figures to life by imagining some of the conversations that took place in their lives.



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