NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For readers of The Nightingale and Sarah’s Key, inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this remarkable debut novel reveals the power of unsung women to change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances.
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.
USA Today “New and Noteworthy” Book • LibraryReads Top Ten Pick
“Harrowing . . . Lilac illuminates.”—People
“A compelling, page-turning narrative . . . Lilac Girls falls squarely into the groundbreaking category of fiction that re-examines history from a fresh, female point of view. It’s smart, thoughtful and also just an old-fashioned good read.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“A powerful story for readers everywhere . . . Martha Hall Kelly has brought readers a firsthand glimpse into one of history’s most frightening memories. A novel that brings to life what these women and many others suffered. . . . I was moved to tears.”—San Francisco Book Review
“Extremely moving and memorable . . . This impressive debut should appeal strongly to historical fiction readers and to book clubs that adored Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“[A] compelling first novel . . . This is a page-turner demonstrating the tests and triumphs civilians faced during war, complemented by Kelly’s vivid depiction of history and excellent characters.”—Publishers Weekly
“Kelly vividly re-creates the world of Ravensbrück.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Inspired by actual events and real people, Martha Hall Kelly has woven together the stories of three women during World War II that reveal the bravery, cowardice, and cruelty of those days. This is a part of history—women’s history—that should never be forgotten.”—Lisa See, New York Times bestselling author of China Dolls
“Profound, unsettling, and thoroughly . . . the best book I’ve read all year.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Based on a true story, Martha Hall Kelly’s riveting debut explores the little-known plight of the Ravensbrück Rabbits: 74 healthy Polish women whom Nazi doctors used for ghastly experiments during World War II. Fictionalizing the perspectives of historical figures, Kelly tells the story of Kasia, a hobbled Rabbit survivor; Herta, a German medical student who shape-shifts into an icy war criminal; and Caroline, an American philanthropist and the Rabbits’ tireless advocate. Full of heartbreak and atrocity, Lilac Girls left us speechless and shocked yet again at the hidden stories of the war.
Kelly's compelling first novel follows three women through the course of World War II and beyond. Caroline, a wealthy New Yorker, volunteers at the French consulate in New York, assisting refugees and raising funds. She meets Paul, a charming, married French actor, and sparks fly. Kasia, a young woman living in Poland during the Nazi invasion, works for the resistance until she is captured and sent to Ravensbruck, the women's concentration camp. There, she encounters Herta, a doctor hired to help execute inmates and perform experiments. Though her mother is Herta's trusted assistant, and even saved a camp guard's life, Kasia is operated on, joining the "Rabbits," inmates deformed from their surgeries. Meanwhile, Caroline loses touch with Paul when he returns to France to find his wife, and she finds herself tasked with keeping track of the growing concentration camp network for the consulate, learned from British intelligence. After the war, she travels to France to assist in locating missing people, where she learns about the Rabbits, including Kasia, who is struggling to let go of her anger and move on with her life. Despite some horrific scenes, this is a page-turner demonstrating the tests and triumphs civilians faced during war, complemented by Kelly's vivid depiction of history and excellent characters.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This is one of my all time favorite books. I fell in love with the characters and was moved by their story lines.
This was an incredible book, told in a story book way so you fell in love with all the characters and couldn't wait to read their stories. That they all got tied in together was masterful. I look forward to many books from this author.
Extreme violence & details in novel!
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is a historical novel set during World War II. We get to see how the lives of three women in three different countries are affected by the war. Caroline Ferriday in New York City, Kasia Kuzmerick in Lublin, Poland, and Dr. Herta Oberheuser in Germany. This war will forever change their lives (if they make it alive to the end). Each one will experience the war differently. Come see how these three woman survive the war and what happens to them afterward.
Lilac Girls is a long novel with some extreme details. This book is not for the faint of heart. There are many gruesome details about what happens at Ravensbruck (originally listed as rehabilitation camp for women). Ravensbruck was actually a concentration camp. Many women were experimented on at this camp by the doctors. These women became known as The Rabbits. It is very hard to read the details in this book. Lilac Girls contains good writing and interesting characters. The book starts out slow (making it hard to get into), but it does get much better. It is also confusing at first because it starts with Caroline (a New York socialite who devotes her time to the French Consulate), then goes to Kasia, then Herta. It then starts over again. The majority of the book is devoted to the what happens to the characters during the war and then the last section to how the war affects the rest of these women’s lives. I give Lilac Girls 3.75 out of 5 stars. This novel will stick with you long after you finish it (because of the details). The book is based on real people and incidents.
I received a complimentary copy of Lilac Girls from the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the novel.