Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls

A Novel

Book - 2016
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"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 Ravensbruck, 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. Advance praise for Lilac Girls "Rich with historical detail and riveting to the end, Lilac Girls weaves the lives of three astonishing women into a story of extraordinary moral power set against the harrowing backdrop of Europe in thrall to Nazi Germany. Martha Hall Kelly moves effortlessly across physical and ethical battlegrounds, across the trajectory of a doomed wartime romance, across the territory of the soul. I can't remember the last time I read a novel that moved me so deeply."--Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of A Hundred Summers and The Secret Life of Violet Grant "Inspired by actual events and real people, Martha Hall Kelly has woven together the stories of three women during World War II that reveal the bravery, cowardice, and cruelty of those days. This is a part of history--women's history--that should never be forgotten."--Lisa See, New York Times bestselling author of China Dolls"--
"On a September day in Manhattan in 1939, twenty-something Caroline Ferriday is consumed by her efforts to secure the perfect boutonniere for an important French diplomat and resisting the romantic advances of a married actor. Meanwhile across the Atlantic, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish Catholic teenager, is nervously anticipating the changes that are sure to come since Germany has declared war on Poland. As tensions rise abroad - and in her personal life - Caroline's interest in aiding the war effort in France grows and she eventually comes to hear about the dire situation at the Ravensbruck all-female concentration camp. At the same time, Kasia's carefree youth is quickly slipping away, only to be replaced by a fervor for the Polish resistance movement. Through Ravensbruck - and the horrific atrocities taking place there told in part by an infamous German surgeon, Herta Oberheuser - the two women's lives will converge in unprecedented ways and a novel of redemption and hope emerges that is breathtaking in scope and depth"--
Publisher: New York :, Ballantine Books,, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781101883075
Branch Call Number: FICTION Kelly Martha 04/2016
Characteristics: 487 pages ;,25 cm


From Library Staff

JCLMelodyMK Apr 05, 2017

Lilac girls reveals the hidden stories of the treatment of Polish ladies that were sent to an all female Nazi concentration camp called Ravensbruk, their efforts to survive and the atrocities visited upon them by doctors in the name of research.
It also follows the lives of three women whose li... Read More »

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Aug 03, 2017

This was a fantastic book. It did take me a while to get into it, learning the personalities. But after that, had a hard time putting it down, Want to do more research regarding Caroline Ferriday and the "rabbits". Thank you Martha Hall Kelly for sharing this story with everyone.

CRRL_MegRaymond Jul 25, 2017

The intertwining lives and fates of three very different women - a concentration camp survivor, a female German doctor, and an American socialite.

Jul 08, 2017

You have me as having read and reviewed this book. I have done neither!! I have not read it and certainly have not reviewed it! Please correct.

Apr 10, 2017

Three women’s stories in a ten year period from 1939 to 1949 are told in Kelly’s popular debut novel—a New York socialite, a young Polish girl working for the Underground resistance and an ambitious recent German medical school graduate. I am still waiting to read “The Nightingale’, but loved “All the Light You Cannot See’, books ‘Lilac Girls’ is compared with.

I give the author high marks for bringing these stories to a wide audience, but fault her writing and some jarring times when it didn’t seem like she was writing in a 1940s world. By the way, ‘Lilac Girls’ is a reference to real gardens at real-life socialite Caroline Ferriday’s Connecticut country home. Almost lilac time!

JCLMelodyMK Apr 05, 2017

Lilac girls reveals the hidden stories of the treatment of Polish ladies that were sent to an all female Nazi concentration camp called Ravensbruk, their efforts to survive and the atrocities visited upon them by doctors in the name of research.
It also follows the lives of three women whose lives where intertwined their struggles and love stories. A very good historical fiction. I not only enjoyed this read I learned something.

Mar 28, 2017

Although I found this book to be interesting--I was not familiar with the Ravensbrück 'Rabbits' prior to reading it--the story as written was not as compelling as I had hoped it would be. It's based on real people, and so I imagine the author didn't want to take too much poetic license, but because of that, the story at times just felt flat and dry. I wasn't drawn in the way I anticipated.

With that said, I certainly was interested in learning more about Caroline Ferriday's work to help these women who suffered some of the worst atrocities of the war. I also found Herta Oberheuser, the 3rd protagonist (really antagonist) in the story to be, in some ways, the most fascinating. As the only female doctor working at Ravensbrück, I can only imagine her experiences trying to prove herself in a male-dominated field. She did some awful things, but it was interesting to examine what might have driven her to take part in the horrors she caused.

Mar 20, 2017

A very interesting read. Caroline Ferriday in a word is inspirational. All three stories were thought provoking. I particularly appreciated the after the war story lines.

Mar 18, 2017

5✩!! Caroline Ferriday is an unsung heroine, whose time to be properly though posthumously recognized has come through this remarkably documented piece of historical fiction, The Lilac Girls. The author Martha Hall Kelly found parts of the true story incidentally in a magazine article years ago. After visiting Caroline's New England lilac-surrounded heritage family home much later, Martha felt compelled to write about the New York actress and debutante who became an activist on behalf of women operated on and used as laboratory specimens - The Rabbits- by the Nazis at Ravensbrük.

Fiction featuring World War I and II seems to have become more generally popularized in North America recently than I can ever recall it being. The Brits have always kept true and fictionalized narratives alive as part of their literary offerings. Today, it is the reckoning with the actions that countries took or didn't which are inviting introspection, especially for North America. Our internment camps... Our duplicity with landed immigrants' property... Our treatment of different nationalities... Anti-Semitism preventing immigration during WWII. As a result, the historical fiction we read now gives us a broader and truer picture of those times, and a greater appreciation for those who tried to help as well as the not so well known casualties of war from those times.

Following the lives of three women and those who intersect with them from 1939 until 1959, the reader is taken from the French Consulate with Caroline Ferriday in New York where its terrified countrymen look for visas for relatives, to the invasion of Poland where thousands of men are forcibly moved to become Nazi slave labour and where the German SS trap Kasia Kuzmerick, her sister and mother and capriciously send them to the women-only concentration camp, Ravensbrük. There, they are meant to be starved to death if healthy, put to death if not and treated barbarically. They also meet the only female doctor, Herta Oberheuser, a staunchly loyal follower of Hitler who respects the Third Reich's hierarchy obsessively and who is involved with the terrible experimental surgeries.

The Lilac Girls is compelling, compulsively readable, deeply disturbing at times and dark with resignation. It is also a story of people who helped, survived and told their story - very well, with Martha Hall Kelly giving it a relatable voice.

The atrocities of the past are those which we can examine with the distance of time; they are also a nagging reminder that we must help, and never ignore, our fellow humans in peril.

Mar 03, 2017

I was surprised to read the author's note at the end, about how the real life Caroline Ferriday inspired her to write this novel. Throughout the book, I found Caroline's New York high-society storyline jarring in comparison to the war and tragedy raging elsewhere at the time. I suppose it lends some perspective, but I just felt irritated by her non-problems and couldn't wait to get back to the 'real' story. I don't feel the author did her any credit by adding the fictional love story as it makes her character less relatable. In the end I wished I'd read the author's note first, as it might have given me more patience with her character - knowing how she tied in at the end. The rest of the book is riveting and haunting so it's tough to rate this book: two exceptional threads and one big distraction.

Jan 27, 2017


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Jan 23, 2017

“But it’s fitting in a way - Father loved the fact that a lilac only blossoms after a harsh winter.” - p. 440


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