Lilac Girls: A Novel, by Martha Hall Kelly
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 5, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 8/10 (seriously, great book – definitely will be one of the best of 2016!)
Reading Sara Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is a fantastic book. I had hoped The Summer Before the War was going to be amazing too for my historical fiction fix. Since I was left wanting more, I am glad this one came along. For fans of All the Light We Cannot See and/or The Nightingale, or any other recent historical fiction World War 1 or 2 novels, this one is a beautiful read.
Lilac Girls follows three women, going through different things during World War 2 – Caroline, a New York City socialite who is caught in a complicated love triangle, Kasia, a Polish teenager trying to survive with her family, and lastly, Herta, a German Nazi doctor.
I’ll admit that I struggled for a bit with any focus at all on the German Nazi Doctor, Herta Oberheuser. She is hate-able and a horrible character – and unfortunately, was a real person. But her chapters did add depth and context to the novel, even if her atrocities are unforgivable. I do not read books only to love the characters, and this was a reminder of that. Feeling anything for characters is an important piece of writing, and Kelly expertly did this.
The women’s lives diverge together in completely unexpected ways. It was an incredible story over decades watching these women grow, survive, and find peace with their lives. Like Herta, Caroline Ferriday was a real person, and Kasia is based on a real person. The research and details provided in this historical fiction novel are incredible.
The resilience that Kasia and her sister exhibit while at Ravensbruck (the only all-female concentration camp) is remarkable. They find little ways to show kindness to others, find the means to survive and be human. While Caroline dedicates her life to fighting for human rights, Kasia, and her sister, literally fought for their rights in small, subtle ways that helped them to survive.
Add this one to your book club list – it is one of the best books to come out this year. It tells the story of friendship, sisterhood, relationships and resilience. If you need a break from the World War 1 & 2 historical fiction, I totally get it, but save this on your TBR list. I know it is hard to keep reading about the Holocaust especially, but is it not important that we keep these memories and stories alive so that we never relive these atrocities? These were real women – and these stories are based on real events – we can’t forget that. And if you are on a historical fiction binge for more World War 2 novels, next on my list: Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave (read it with me!!).
The main heroines of the story, Caroline and Kasia will not be easily forgotten, they are the type of characters that you will think of often.