“The Lilac Girls”, by Martha Hall Kelly

Overall Rating: 5/5

Read it, or save your time?  I was so psyched after reading this that I recommended it to everyone who would listen to me for weeks after.  Beautifully written, emotional, and based on a real WWII heroine, this is one of my favorite books in the WWII historical fiction genre (arguably my favorite genre).  Better than the Nightingale and DEFINITELY better than All The Light You Cannot See, to which it is often compared.

What’s it about?  Three women across the globe, with seemingly nothing in common other than the fact that WWII has drastically affected their lives, interesct in a poignant story told over the span of two decades.

Caroline Ferriday: In 1938, Caroline is a young, vivacious New York Socialite/former actress, is loving her work at the French consulate, and has recently fallen in love.  However, when WWII officially breaks out in 1939, her life is permanently altered and and her work takes on a new meaning.

Kasia Kuzmerick:  Kasia is a teenager living in Poland who, along with her sister, joins the Polish Resistance in the fight against the Nazis.  Eventually captured and sent to Ravensbrück, the infamous women’s concentration camp, the sisters become subjects of ghastly Nazi medical experiments.

Dr. Herta Oberheuser:  Herta is a brilliant young German surgeon who simply for being a woman, has been relegated to Dermatology work.  So when offered a job as a surgeon at the Ravensbrück ‘reformation’ camp, she jumps at the chance.  Although torn, she eventually partakes in the brutal experiments, convincing herself she is just doing her patriotic duty for her beloved Germany.  Definitely the anti-heroin and a very controversial character, she adds an additional layer of depth and perspective not often seen in these types of books.

Reviewer’s Note:  Caroline Ferriday was a real person.  The author spent three years studying her letters, diaries, and even visited her home in Connecticut.  As a result, she does a spectacular job of portraying this tenacious and compassionate heroine through a work of fiction.


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