By Martha Hall Kelly
ARC e-book, 496 pages (hardcover)
2015, Ballantine Books
ISBN: 9781101883075 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: April 5, 2016
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
In September 1939, Hitler invades Poland. Caroline Ferriday, New York socialite and Broadway performer turned social worker, is already juggling demands from the French consulate and a complicated relationship with a married man. Kasia Kuzmerick is a Polish teenager whose life is changed forever when she’s followed by a German soldier after completing a task for the underground resistance. Herta Oberheuser is a female doctor, struggling to gain work and notoriety in the field. She takes a position through the government and ends up performing experiments on the helpless women trapped in a Nazi concentration camp. Their lives are all irreversibly changed during that fateful war and each struggles to cope with her new situation.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t read a lot of historical fiction that revolves around the more brutal events in history. My comfort zone is Tudor England. But every now and then I like to branch out (which is good, of course) and I’m glad I gave this book a shot after NetGalley sent me a pre-approval email.
The three women in this book are strong and compelling and realistic (which makes sense because in Caroline and Herta’s case, they are real, and Kasia was based off a real woman). They are all transformed by the events of the war and it was interesting to see how each woman dealt with her situation. I don’t want to give too much away, but in Herta’s case especially, I grew to dislike her, but could understand (partially) why she did the things she did. Kasia’s transformation was perhaps the most intriguing, as we were shown not only how the camp affected her while she was there, but the trauma it caused her afterwards.
Obviously, I’m aware of the main events of World War II and so I knew this book would make me uncomfortable and sad, and I was right. But I love me some heartbreak when the mood is right and while this book didn’t totally crush my soul, it did bring me the level of sadness I was looking for. Maybe this sounds strange to some of you, but there’s got to be some out there that understand what I’m saying right? Sometimes you want a book to upset you. To me, it’s a sign of sign of powerful writing.
Lilac Girls pulled me in and held my attention all the way through, and I recommend it to any historical fiction fans who are interested in WWII.
*cover image from NetGalley