I read a really important book this week: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and I recommend it to anyone who has the will to learn about history and to become engulfed by some purely wonderful reading.
Three girls from three different lifestyles from three different countries cross paths during the rigours of World War II.
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 could not put this book down – I read 350 pages of it in one Sunday afternoon sitting (it did help that I have been sick and almost bed-ridden). I am a sucker for a good historical fiction any day of the week, but Martha Hall Kelly smashed this one right out of the park.
This book was written beautifully and from the perspective of all three women throughout important and poignant stages of their lives. As I read this book, I began to realise, without knowing too much, that this story was built on true events and actual people. I began to read some, research some and so on … I was so excited to realise that socialite, Caroline Ferriday was a real person!
I felt so connected to each character and so entranced by each of their stories and felt the heart break of both Caroline and especially Kasia. I had to keep turning the pages to see what would happen next, as well as cross referencing the actual historical version of events.
Martha Hall Kelly wrote the horrors of what the Nazi’s had subjected the Lilac Girls to, how the healthy young body’s were defiled and violated. She added colour and tone to facts and events that took place at Ravensbrück concentration camp as well as the Neuremberg Trials where Herta Oberheuser met her fate for the crimes that she had committed against humanity.
The portrayal of Caroline Ferriday was beautiful and easily imaginable. At first her chapters felt a bit dry, but as her plight began to unravel, I fell in love with her heart – the way she used her social standing for her cause and her unrelenting loyalty to those who were in need. I learned the most about Caroline Ferriday while researching for myself and saw that who she really was, is very accurate to how the author of Lilac Girls portrayed her.
I feel like this book was so cleverly put together and have an immense respect for the commitment and research that Martha Hall Kelly put in to make this book as beautiful and as brilliant as it is. Not only did I become engrossed in the story, but I also learned things about World War II that I didn’t know without it feeling like an overwhelming block of wordy information.
Over all, this has got to be one of the best books I have ever read. I was so grateful to receive an advanced readers copy from the legends over at Penguin Random House Australia – probably my most favourite book that I’ve received since beginning this blog. I don’t generally give books 5 stars, but I’ve been incredibly lucky to have read what have been two consecutive five star books.
I am going to recommend this book to everyone starting right here! Thank you Martha Hall Kelly for bringing the story of Caroline Ferriday and the Lilac Girls to light — another important story of devastation, bravery and heroism from the past that really needs to have more of a spotlight.