NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The million-copy bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. Now Lost Roses, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline’s mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.
“Not only a brilliant historical tale, but a love song to all the ways our friendships carry us through the worst of times.”—Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours
It is 1914, and the world has been on the brink of war so often, many New Yorkers treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia: the church with the interior covered in jeweled mosaics, the Rembrandts at the tsar’s Winter Palace, the famous ballet.
But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortune-teller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming, she fears the worst for her best friend.
From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg and aristocratic countryside estates to the avenues of Paris where a society of fallen Russian émigrés live to the mansions of Long Island, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways. In her newest powerful tale told through female-driven perspectives, Martha Hall Kelly celebrates the unbreakable bonds of women’s friendship, especially during the darkest days of history.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Set during World War II, Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls hit our historical-fiction sweet spot: detailed research and action mixed with strong female characters and a little romance. This prequel is just as compelling. Manhattan socialite Eliza Ferriday visits her wealthy Russian friend, Sofya, in St. Petersburg, but the outbreak of World War I plunges their privileged world into chaos. While Eliza escapes, Sofya and her servant, Varinka, face warfare and the fall of the czar at home. Blending fact and fiction, Lost Roses is a powerful tale of friendship, generosity, and courage during the most turbulent of times.
How Caroline Ferriday, the real-life character featured in Kelly's Lilac Girls, was inspired to become an advocate for Polish refugees who survived WWII comes to light in this lively, well-researched prequel in which she appears as a child. Here the story focuses on her mother, Eliza, who set an example for her daughter by being a champion for Russian nobility brutalized during WWI. Just as the author focused on three strong women surviving a war in her previous novel, she does the same here: in addition to Eliza, there is her aristocrat friend Sofya Streshnayva (cousin to the tsar) and a Russian peasant girl, Varinka. The author follows the trajectory of their lives from 1914 through WWI and then the Russian Revolution and its aftermath with page-tuning brio. Interweaving three story lines (Varinka ends up working for the Streshnayva household) where all three are emotionally and physically put to the test, the author depicts Eliza's upper-class life in America and how, despite personal loss, she throws herself into helping Russian emigres; Sofya's tragic circumstances when a rowdy, dangerous mob takes over the family's country home; and Varinka's struggles as a peasant girl at the mercy of a man who is both abusive and protective toward her. Some story lines strain credibility (coincidences and melodramatic cliffhangers abound) or are questionable (the prurient element involved with Varinka's protector/abuser falls flat). Nevertheless, Kelly memorably portrays three indomitable women who triumph over hardships and successfully brings a complex and turbulent time in history to life.
I have really enjoyed reading about Eliza, Soyfa, and Varinka. I enjoyed reading all 3 stories about the Woolsey family. Thanks for bringing to life the women during these times of war. They are a true inspiration for us today.
This book would have been better concentrating on one character rather than three. The connection between the characters seemed contrived. The characterization of Ferriday should have been expanded. The part on her was interesting but too short.