Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac Girls
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


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.

Lilac Girls is one of those books I’ve been seeing around since its release but didn’t really know much about. It wasn’t until a friend picked it for our next book club read that I became aware it was based on a true story from World War II.

The history recapped in Lilac Girls was new to me. Or at least it felt that way. I’ve read several other books set in the same time period, but this was the first I’ve read that included the “rabbits”. I knew the Nazis experimented at concentration camps, but I’ve never experienced it quite the way I did in this book. Nor have I read a book that included the perspective of someone involved in the operation of a concentration camp. Those things made Lilac Girls stand out to me in the World War II historical fiction genre.

Novels revolving around World War II are always tough reads. They evoke so many negative emotions from me. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. Relief. I felt all of those things while reading Lilac Girls. It’s tough realities stuck with me evening when I wasn’t reading it. I woke at four in the morning thinking about this book. It’s hard to imagine such a horrible time. If it wasn’t based on a horrible truth, it would be hard to believe.

I can’t say I loved reading Lilac Girls because it made me incredibly sad, and it took me a bit to get into. I can say that it was well written and informative. It made me want to know more about the real story behind several characters in this book. I will be headed to Google to search them once I finish this review. Historical fiction readers or anyone who has an interest in World War II would enjoy this book.

12 thoughts on “Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly”

  1. I’ve seen this around a lot, but never really knew what it was about. It definitely looks interesting. I’m not really a huge fan of historical fiction these days. I used to love it, so I don’t know why I shy away from it now. I think I’ll keep this one in mind though in case I get in the mood to read something in this genre. Great review!

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed this one – I just bought a copy at B&N last week. I like historical fiction like this, but I have to be in the mood for it. Which isn’t that often. Lol. Great review!

  3. Yeah, I agree. WWII books can be really tough to read. I think it’s just harder because you know that this is something that did happen so your emotions are heightened. I’m glad that you found it informative. I really do enjoy a book that teaches me a thing or two.

    1. This one felt harder because it talked about some of the experiments that took place on people. 🙁

  4. I am really interested in reading this book. I like books set in historical times. Most are emotional like this one seems to be but its also an opportunity to learn something about the past. I can’t wait to read this book soon especially after reading this review.

    1. Thank you! It was so informative. I’m amazed at how each fictional account of WWII teaches me something new. This book certainly did! I hope you get to enjoy it soon!

  5. I’ve seen this book around and keep planning on reading it because I love historical fiction, but keep forgetting about it. I didn’t realize it was based on a true story – this alone makes me want to go pick up a copy as soon as I get the chance. I’m so glad that you liked it, and that there are things in this book that were new to you, as well. Great review!

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