February 13, 2018

Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Historical Fiction
2016 Random House Audio
Read by Kathrin Kana, Kathleen Gati, Cassandra Campbell and Martha Hall Kelly
17 hours and 30 minutes
Finished on April 2, 2017
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

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 an ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems like 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 they strive and sacrifice 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 quests for love, happiness, and second chances. It is a story that will keep listeners bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final moments.

I have become an avid reader of the Holocaust, particularly works of historical fiction. When Lilac Girls first hit the shelves, the cover caught my eye and I was hoping for another book like Kristen Hannah's excellent novel, The Nightingale. Sadly, I felt like the title and cover art were somewhat deceiving. This is not a book about the friendship between three women during WWII, but rather that of three women from very different backgrounds whose lives intersect and overlap as a result of the horrors that took place in Ravensbruck. This is a part of the Holocaust narrative with which I was not very familiar and it was through this novel that I learned about the experimental operations that took place in Ravensbruck. Some of the details of the surgical experiments were very difficult to read. 

It took me a long time to get interested in Lilac Girls, but once each character's story finally merged with the others, I couldn't put it down. The reader for Kasia was excellent, but the one for Herta Oberheuser was disappointing. In spite of my average rating for the novel, it is one that has stayed with me quite vividly.


  1. This does sound like an interesting story. I wonder if it would be better in print.

    1. Kathy - It might be best as a listen/read combo. It's definitely an interesting story and a subject I knew nothing about.

  2. One of our mystery group members recommended this one at our December meeting. That's the one where we talk about our best of the year, mystery or not. I was thinking about listening to this one perhaps. Though maybe not if one of the narrators wasn't a good match. I'm kind of picky about the narrators.

    1. Kay - Maybe a listen/read combo? It's a decent book, but not one I'd read again.

  3. I do have this book and really want to read it!

    1. Iliana - I hope you do so I can read your thoughts on it!


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