Faith, Flour, & Sawdust

Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls Book Cover Lilac Girls
Martha Hall Kelly
World War II
Ballantine Books
February 28th 2017

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and 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 a 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 finished this book on June 17, 2018. What an amazing book! Some books leave you wondering what happened to the characters, not this book. The book gives a very good ending and gives you the closure you may be looking for.

No matter how many books I read about the atrocities of the Holocaust, the death camps, and the concentration camps, I always feel that each of the stories must be told so it is not forgotten and no matter how difficult these stories are to read, we have to read them.

In this novel, the story of what happened at Ravensbruck, the concentration camp, infamous for the horrific medical experimentation on young Polish women is told from the perspectives of three women. It spans two decades from 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland through 1959.

I am always left wondering about the aftermath of the war and what might have happened to survivors of the camps.  In this book, she covers that, she brings closure to the characters she brought to life in the book.

Caroline Ferriday, a former actress is from a wealthy and generous family. She volunteers at the French consulate in NYC is one of the characters we come enthralled by the book. Her part of the story at first seemed remote and separate from what was happening at Ravensbruck and in Europe. Caroline Ferriday was a real person who not only worked tirelessly to help orphans in France during the war but continued to give of herself to help survivors of Ravensbruck in the years after the war. It is after the war that her story converges with the other characters.

Kasia, is an eighteen-year-old girl in Lublin, Poland who gets involved in the Resistance and is arrested with her sister and her mother. It’s difficult to read about the concentration camps, just so disturbing to see what these sick minded Nazis do to these women. Yet amidst the horrible things that Kasia and her sister and other women endure, there are moments of tenderness and care, reflections on mothers and daughters, friendships, love.

We have Dr. Herta Oberhauser from Düsseldorf, newly graduated surgeon, who applies for a job and goes to Ravensbruck, thrilled that she will finally practice in a world dominated by male Doctors. It was not easy to see things through Herta’s eyes , loyal to the Nazi cause and feeling that the experiments are justified.

It was a camp for women only, called a “reeducation” camp but in reality , we know it was a place where women were subjected not only to the harsh conditions with little food , the imminent susceptibility of disease daily and both emotional and physical abuse but also to the atrocities of the barbaric medical experimentation .

While this is a fictional telling, it is based on the real Caroline Ferriday and the real Herta Oberheuser. Kasia and her sister are loosely based on two real sisters who survived Ravensbruck .

Martha Hall Kelly has done extensive research in preparation for writing this and I highly recommend it . What an effort for a debut ! It has to be read.