Book Review: Lilac Girls

April 5, 2016

Lilac Girls
Martha Hall Kelly
496 pages
ARC through NetGalley

From the Publisher:

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.

In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of unsung women and their quest for love, freedom, and second chances. It is a story that will keep readers bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final pages.


I read and like a lot of books.  But it really says something when I read a book that sticks with me. I finished this book a few weeks ago and I am still thinking about it.

The book follows three different women, Caroline, a socialite from New York City, Kasia a teenager from Poland and Herta a medical doctor from Germany.  Caroline was a real person.  Kelly read an article about her and her work during the war which sparked her research and time spent writing this book. This is her first novel and it is SO well researched.  I didn’t know this was based on a true story when I started it, and really found it fascinating after I finished it.  I have loved reading and researching more about this time period.

At the beginning of this story I wasn’t sure how bringing these women together would really work, but their stories began to weave together in such a way and I was amazed at the end of the book that it worked together.  Kasia was my favorite by far.  She was fascinating to me and I loved her strength.  I can’t imagine her position and being placed in a camp. I can’t imagine anyone reading this book not liking her character.  I enjoyed the fact that I got to see her life after the war.  The story didn’t end after the war did, or after she was released from the camp.  The story continued, just as it did in real life for so many of these women.  It was compelling to read this. I was so glad she was given at least some closure by the end of the book.

Herta.  I don’t even know what to say about her.  I really hated her.  I can’t even say that I sympathized with her character.  I suppose there were lots of Germans just doing the best they could at this point in time, doing what they felt was right.  And maybe this was the best she could do.  But I don’t think so.  I really didn’t like her at all.  She didn’t receive much compassion from me at all as a reader.










There are scenes in this book that were extremely hard to read. I almost had to put this book down and not finish it a couple times.  But I don’t think that this time in history is something that can be sugar coated or talked about without some of these graphic scenes.  They happened.  I am sure worse than this happened.  But please be aware there are some really hard sections of this book and graphic portions.

This book was a hard book to put down.  It is not for everyone. It is not for the faint of heart or the sensitive reader.  But it is an amazingly told story.  If you enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See (I’m listening to this currently on audible), The Nightingale or Sarah’s Key, or are interested in WWII history this is a book you will want to read.

I read an advanced copy, but this is a book that I would love to have in my home library as well.  You can grab a copy of the book on Amazon by clicking below.

Final Score:

5 stars









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