Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls

A Novel

Book - 2017
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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
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, 2017, c2016
Edition: Ballantine Books trade pbk. ed
ISBN: 9781101883082
Branch Call Number: KEL
Characteristics: 502 p. :,ill., maps ;,21 cm


From the critics

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Feb 19, 2020

Enjoyed the book...well written.

Feb 01, 2020

Extremely well written. Very moving.

Jan 27, 2020

This was so good! I don't know why I waited so long to read it. I listened to the audiobook and it was easy to follow along even though it switched between 3 different women. I got to know the accents so I knew which woman's story I would be hearing about. I always love learning about WWII and the Holocaust. The more we know the better. This time I learned about the "rabbits" the women who were experimented on by the Nazi's. We also learned about a female doctor who did the surgeries and about a woman in New York working at the French Embassy trying to help with the war. This story is heartbreaking but also parts are uplifting how the women fight and support each other. They didn't give up. The author notes were also fascinating how she did her research and what she found. I knew about the rabbits but I hadn't read anything about them. Lilac Girls makes me want to learn more about the horrific surgeries and the women who endured them.

Sep 15, 2019

I'm always hesitant to pick up novels that occur during the height of WW2, especially if it deals heavily with the Holocaust. With so much love for this book, I couldn't resist and I'm really glad I didn't. This was an amazing depiction of a facet of the Holocaust that I had not heard about before. Using three major characters to tell the story was fascinating and amazingly well-written. While much of the characters' interactions were fiction, along with a few characters themselves, I felt the author still did the main story justice. The fictional accounts managed to elevate the story to a wider audience, without detracting from the facts. I never fail to learn something new about this time in history and I'm always intrigued to learn more. I know that this is in direct contradiction to my previous comment about being hesitant to read these types of books, but what can I say? History is fascinating and we can never learn enough.

Sep 14, 2019


Sep 10, 2019

I agree that the first part of the book was disorienting, but in the end that was the best way to write this story. The atrocities appalled me, but the darkness was juxtaposed with the best of our nature. Thank goodness!

Aug 06, 2019

Found this book hard to get into, but eventually it was interesting. I was unaware of the horrors that occurred in Poland during WWII. My main criticism is that the author chose to include a fictional romance for one of the main characters...totally unnecessary. Based on historical fact the story was captivating enough without that added distraction.

Jul 03, 2019

This novel moved me to tears. Captured the story through the perspective of three characters. Tremendously well written and brought to light the terrible cruelties and heartbreaking stories of lives forever changed by the horrors of the Second World War. Excellent author.

May 29, 2019

This book was an amazing read and I did not want to put it down or let go of the story. Even did some lite research afterward about some of the real life characters. I also did not know anything about Ravensbruck, the experiments and the Polish women.

May 25, 2019

I found this book to be pretty engrossing. Prior to reading this, I had a vague knowledge of Ravensbrück, but this novel elaborated on what those poor women and children endured. Chilling and horrifying. I also appreciated the very different experiences of the 3 protagonists. Perhaps the novel could have used a little more editing for length, but overall, 2 thumbs' up.

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Nov 30, 2017

“It’s just a thing, Kasia. Don’t waste your energy on the hate. That will kill you sure as anything. Focus on keeping your strength. You’re resourceful. Find a way to outsmart them.“ -Matka (pg. 161)

Jan 23, 2017

“But it’s fitting in a way - Father loved the fact that a lilac only blossoms after a harsh winter.” - p. 440

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