Thursday, March 10, 2016

4 Stars - Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Historical Fiction
Buy: AMZ

About the Book

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 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.

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Lilac Girls begins as three parallel threads, each a story about a woman affected differently by the war. American Caroline gives her time and energy to assisting French families and orphans in the US and abroad; Polish Kasia becomes caught up in an underground movement as Nazi forces threaten freedom; and German Herta, a doctor, grows frustrated by sexism in her field as a byproduct of nationalist pride.

Gradually these threads overlap as their stories come together during and after WWII. Kelly writes in the afterword how her book is based upon true stories of the women imprisoned in Ravensbruck and of the real Caroline's effort to see these victims compensated years later. I've been drawn to war fiction lately and a title where women primarily tell the story intrigued. Of the three, though, I found Kasia's story the most compelling - naturally, it's more intense given the setting and circumstances. If you are looking for WWII fiction, it's worth picking up.

ARC received by publisher via NetGalley

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