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Lilac Girls PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Lilac Girls
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Publisher: Published February 28th 2017 by Ballantine Books (first published April 5th 2016)
ISBN: 9781101883082
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.   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 Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.   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.

30 review for Lilac Girls

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    No matter how many books I read about the atrocities of the holocaust, the death camps , the concentration camps, I always feel that each of the stories must be told so it is not forgotten and no matter how difficult these stories are to read , we have to read them. In this novel the story of what happened at Ravensbruck, the concentration camp , infamous for the horrific medical experimentation on young Polish women is told from the perspectives of three women. It spans two decades from 1939 wh No matter how many books I read about the atrocities of the holocaust, the death camps , the concentration camps, I always feel that each of the stories must be told so it is not forgotten and no matter how difficult these stories are to read , we have to read them. In this novel the story of what happened at Ravensbruck, the concentration camp , infamous for the horrific medical experimentation on young Polish women is told from the perspectives of three women. It spans two decades from 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland through 1959. I have not read a lot about the aftermath of the war and what might have happened to survivors of the camps, and I found the coverage of that aspect here in the third part of the novel , to be a gripping depiction of strength and resilience of some of the survivors but also one of courage, and goodness and strength on the part of people who helped them. Caroline Ferriday, a former actress , from a wealthy and generous family , volunteers at the French consulate in NYC is one of the narrators . Even though she works hard to provide care packages to French orphans and later is involved in more classified work , her part of the story at first seemed remote and separate from what was happening at Ravensbruck. But that was only at first. I had no idea until I read the author's note that Caroline Ferriday was a real person who not only worked tirelessly to help orphans in France during the war but continued to give of herself to help survivors of Ravensbruck in the years after the war. It is after the war that her story converges with the other narrators. They are Kasia , an eighteen year old girl in Lublin , Poland who gets involved in the Resistance and is arrested with her sister and her mother and Dr. Herta Oberhauser from Düsseldorf , newly graduated surgeon, who applies for a job and goes to Ravensbruck, thrilled that she will finally practice in a world dominated by male Doctors. That is where Kasia Kuzmerick, her mother and her sister meet Herta - in this horrible place . It's difficult to read about - powerful and painful - just so disturbing to see what these sick minded Nazis do to these women . Yet amidst the horrible things things that Kasia and her sister and other women endure , there are moments of tenderness and care , reflections on mothers and daughters, friendships, love. It was not easy to see things through Herta's eyes , loyal to the Nazi cause and feeling that the experiments are justified. It is Kasia's story that took my heart and is the center of this story. It was a camp for women only, called a "reeducation" camp but in reality , we know it was a place where women were subjected not only to the harsh conditions with little food , the imminent susceptibility of disease daily and both emotional and physical abuse but also to the atrocities of the barbaric medical experimentation . It was more than gruesome to read about . Yet we have to read it . While this is a fictional telling, it is based on the real Caroline Ferriday and the real Herta Oberheuser. Kasia and her sister are loosely based on two real sisters who survived Ravensbruck . Martha Hall Kelly has done extensive research in preparation for writing this and I highly recommend it . What an effort for a debut ! It has to be read. Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Misfit

    This story is about three different women, two of whom were real-life characters according to the author's notes, the third (a prisoner at the all female prison camp Ravensbrück). Caroline Ferriday is the first narrator, Kasia (a young Polish girl) and finally the notorious Herta Oberheuser (don't read up on her experiments at meal time). The setting is mainly during the years of WWII, but the later third or so take place some years afterward. Typically such a subject matter would have me gripped This story is about three different women, two of whom were real-life characters according to the author's notes, the third (a prisoner at the all female prison camp Ravensbrück). Caroline Ferriday is the first narrator, Kasia (a young Polish girl) and finally the notorious Herta Oberheuser (don't read up on her experiments at meal time). The setting is mainly during the years of WWII, but the later third or so take place some years afterward. Typically such a subject matter would have me gripped to the book and bawling my eyes out at the gross inhumanity of the experiments the women at the camp were forced to endure, but this just didn't grab me. I can't understand why a fascinating, albeit graphic, bit of history can be put into a novel that in the end became increasingly tedious. I don't know if it was the alternating third person narratives (admittedly not a method I'm terribly fond of), or just flat characters/characterization, but I just didn't care about any of them, not even Kasia and her fellow prisoners. Caroline's narrative went on and on about her pretty dresses, charities parties and all that name dropping, and then there's the romantic element with no chemistry. In the end, I just didn't care and began to skim, and it went on too long for before tying things up and moving on. Sorry, but apparently I am in the minority and see this getting a lot of favorable reviews, but due to the slowness of the story reaching it's resolution, unlikeable characters (and really, Herta should have been a lot more unlikeable), and one too many social party and pretty dress for Caroline, I just can't rate this higher. YMMV.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Ravensbruck was Hitler's only major concentration camp exclusively for women. The story is centered around three women....each from 3 different countries: Poland, Germany, and, America. ---( before- during - and after World War II) ---all based on the lives of real women in history. There are actually several plots ... not sure any of them are minor. The storytelling is disturbing, gripping and written veraciously. Caroline Ferriday's was a wealthy American woman who made it her life's work to he Ravensbruck was Hitler's only major concentration camp exclusively for women. The story is centered around three women....each from 3 different countries: Poland, Germany, and, America. ---( before- during - and after World War II) ---all based on the lives of real women in history. There are actually several plots ... not sure any of them are minor. The storytelling is disturbing, gripping and written veraciously. Caroline Ferriday's was a wealthy American woman who made it her life's work to help the female prisoners. She was a strong quiet woman...yet we felt her suffering ..her aching love for her family -and the women she was helping. Her dedication was endless...a leader who was ruthless and unreasonable -- she stood for justice and was going to make sure the world became aware of the horrors which took place. Dr. Herta Oberheuser, from Germany, executed the most ghastly and torturous medical experimentation imaginable on these woman in the camps. Her purpose was for the women to conflict pain purposefully -- some crazy type of thinking these woman should be in agony as a type of counterbalance any distress the German soldiers endured. Kasia Kuzmerick ...a Polish political prisoner, ( is the one fictional female character). Dr Oberheuser forced her to assist and perform in the horrid medical experimentation operations. Martha Hall Kelly's story is emotional, heart wrenching, but not 'all' gloomy. What stood out for me were the relationships - the real friendships --(women bonding), that developed ...creating the possibility for an optimistic way of being. They shared experiences of unspeakable memories, and losses, too afraid to hope alone... but when they confronted their challenges together ...we see a rich portrayal of female friendship in the face of adversity. Much pain ... much hardship...much truth! The factual details of the novel are troubling - yet the storytelling is persuasive, interesting ...and deeply moving. The research from Martha Hall Kelly, is quite impressive. The authors notes at the end add a deeper understanding from her years her personal dedication of study. By the time the reader gets to the end...we can't help but respect the integrity in which Martha Kelly devoted to the historical facts. Powerful and extremely engrossing reading. Thank You Random House, Netgalley, and Martha Hall Kelly,

  4. 5 out of 5

    Crumb

    Emotional, Powerful, Brutal This book will take your breath away.. it certainly stole mine. Some stories are unforgettable, no doubt that this one is among them. However, to leave it at that, is not adequately expressing myself. No. This is different. Not only did I appreciate this novel, but it changed me. It shook me to the core and rocked the very foundation on which I stand. If you haven't yet read this, you must. It is imperative that we never forget the extraordinary suffering and enormou Emotional, Powerful, Brutal This book will take your breath away.. it certainly stole mine. Some stories are unforgettable, no doubt that this one is among them. However, to leave it at that, is not adequately expressing myself. No. This is different. Not only did I appreciate this novel, but it changed me. It shook me to the core and rocked the very foundation on which I stand. If you haven't yet read this, you must. It is imperative that we never forget the extraordinary suffering and enormous loss that took place during the Holocaust. It is also something worth noting that one of the perspectives in Lilac Girls was from that of a Nazi doctor, Herta Oberhauser. I've never read any piece of literature that gives a voice to one of the most evil humans in mankind. This was by no means an easy read, however, it is critical that we all never forget the inhumanity that was the Holocaust.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I'm so very clearly in the minority here, and I don't really feel like drawing the ire of the thousands of people who seem to have enjoyed this book so just let me say that the story was fine but I thought the writing was weak. The characters weren't developed and Kelly's use of the three-intertwined-narratives technique (Side note: I am sick to death of that technique) struck me as clumsy and ineffective.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    No matter how many holocaust stories I read, I still find them disturbing, shocking and heart wrenching. Surviving such a devastating experience brings with it a lifetime of horrors. For no one truly forgets and nor should we. 3 women from 3 different geographies as WWII erupts - Each doing what they can towards the war effort. Caroline in NYC. Putting care packages together for orphaned children. Going one step further and helping rebuild the country. Falling in love with a foreigner who is forc No matter how many holocaust stories I read, I still find them disturbing, shocking and heart wrenching. Surviving such a devastating experience brings with it a lifetime of horrors. For no one truly forgets and nor should we. 3 women from 3 different geographies as WWII erupts - Each doing what they can towards the war effort. Caroline in NYC. Putting care packages together for orphaned children. Going one step further and helping rebuild the country. Falling in love with a foreigner who is forced to return to Nazi occupied France. Kasia in Poland. The Nazis have invaded and she has been caught working for the underground movement. She's been sent to Ravensbrück and now is infamously known as one of the 'rabbits'. Even with liberation, the polish people were forced to live under communist rule with Stalin's iron fist -from one radical leader to another never experiencing freedom. The losses suffered and the pain endured would be enough to lose hope. But hope is all they had and gave them the strength to survive. Herta in Germany. A medical doctor working at a concentration camp doing experimental surgeries on inmates. A doctor whose purpose is saving lives is practicing unethical surgeries and murder. Aka The rabbit surgeon. The nazi code so fundamentally f**ked up. The structure of the narrative told from the 3 perspectives gives a global scope. I would have preferred locking onto one character, but overall this was beautifully written and an amazing story of character, courage, redemption and resilience. 5⭐️

  7. 4 out of 5

    *TANYA*

    I finished this book earlier in the day, and I've been pondering what to write for "my review" and I cannot put into words how much this book impacted me. It's books like this that make me appreciate how fortunate I am, for I know with great certainty that I could be nowhere as resilient. FANTASTIC BOOK!!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    PorshaJo

    I tend to gravitate to books on WWII and the holocaust, but I have never read a book about Ravensbrück, the Nazi concentration camp for women. I had never heard of the 'rabbits'. I was shocked by this book, not expecting it to be as good as it was. The Lilac Girls tells the story of three *very* different women, whose lives eventually intersect. Caroline Ferriday, a socialite and former actress works for the French Consulate in NYC and she works tirelessly for children who have been impacted or d I tend to gravitate to books on WWII and the holocaust, but I have never read a book about Ravensbrück, the Nazi concentration camp for women. I had never heard of the 'rabbits'. I was shocked by this book, not expecting it to be as good as it was. The Lilac Girls tells the story of three *very* different women, whose lives eventually intersect. Caroline Ferriday, a socialite and former actress works for the French Consulate in NYC and she works tirelessly for children who have been impacted or displaced by the war. Kasia Kuzmerick, a young Polish girl who eventually is taken by the Germans to Ravensbrück, and is one of the rabbits. Finally, Herta Oberheuser, a young german doctor who is really striving to get herself noticed as a female doctor and shows her unwaivering support for the Reich. The story rotates in chapters between the points of view of each of these women. Telling their stories before, during, and after the war. The rabbits were a group of young, healthy, women who the germans performed ruthless, unnecessary operations on them, debilitating them for life, and sometimes just killing them outright. Herta is the doctor who performs those operations. She is such an evil person who shows no remorse for what she does as it's done for the good of Germany. The story is quite intense. At times, it becomes hard to listen to. Caroline and Herta are based on real life people who did these things that are described in the book. Kasia, is a story based on many of the rabbits. It can be a difficult read at times, but no book on this time period is an easy read. Initially, Caroline seemed to be quite shallow to me, and her 'romance' with Paul just seemed odd. But eventually, she accomplishes some amazing things. I do have to get this out - WORST BOOK COVER!!! It is quite a lovely picture but this shows no representation of what is INSIDE the book. To be honest, when the book came out, I knew it was a story based around WWII. But looking at the cover, I thought it was some book about a bunch of wealthy girls and how they living during this time, but thinking it would be a fluff book. In fact, I returned it to the library initially. The book is so much more and the cover has nothing to do with it other than there are three main female characters. I listened to this one via audio and it was wonderful. Three different female narrators, one for each character. All did a fabulous job and really immersed me in to the story. I would suggest the audio version for those that enjoy audios. Overall, a great story about three different women that should not be missed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    After all the books I've read about the horrors surronding WWII it still amazes me how awful humans can be to each other. Lilac Girls is one of those novels that brings to light a little known atrocity... the experimentation on women in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. The writing is so raw that at times I wasn't sure I'd be able to get through it. It saddens me so much to think that any of the victims of these atrocities would carry guilt feeling any it was their fault. I appreciate the dedicati After all the books I've read about the horrors surronding WWII it still amazes me how awful humans can be to each other. Lilac Girls is one of those novels that brings to light a little known atrocity... the experimentation on women in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. The writing is so raw that at times I wasn't sure I'd be able to get through it. It saddens me so much to think that any of the victims of these atrocities would carry guilt feeling any it was their fault. I appreciate the dedication and research Kelly did in order to bring these women's story to us. It is important that stories like these continue to be written so that the victims of these atrocities are never forgotten. 4.5 stars. *Spoiler? My one criticism might be a spoiler so at this point you might want to stop reading... The only part of this story I didn't really feel connected with was the relationship between Caroline and Paul. Something about it just felt off. To my surprise, I discovered in the Authors Note that this was the only totally fictious relationship in the book. I don't think this relationship was needed and it would've earned a 5 star rating from me if it had been omitted. Still a brillant story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    Ravensbrück. The first time I heard the name as a child, I pictured an older grand mansion needing care, having seen better days, like the movie 1946 film, Dragonwyck, a movie made before my time, but one I have to which I have a connection, of sorts. ”The lawn grew lush and green, and flowers rose up along the base of the building. To the left, high on a ridge overlooking the camp, sat four leader houses built in Heimatschutzstil, homeland-preserving style, with natural stone columns and half-t Ravensbrück. The first time I heard the name as a child, I pictured an older grand mansion needing care, having seen better days, like the movie 1946 film, Dragonwyck, a movie made before my time, but one I have to which I have a connection, of sorts. ”The lawn grew lush and green, and flowers rose up along the base of the building. To the left, high on a ridge overlooking the camp, sat four leader houses built in Heimatschutzstil, homeland-preserving style, with natural stone columns and half-timbered balconies. A mix of Nordic and German styles, pleasing to the eye. This was a place of superior value — high-class, one might even call it. “’Up on the ridge, the one overlooking the camp is the commandant’s house,’ Fritz said. “If not for the glimpse of high stone walls topped with barbed wire behind the administration building, one might have mistaken the camp for a convalescent home, not a reeducation camp for prisoners.” Dragonwyck sounds ominous, filled with dark shadows, but it pales in comparison to the darkness of Ravensbrück, a concentration camp exclusively for women from 1939 through 1945, subjecting select detainees to death and / or torture, and medical experimentation, including surgeries. This story, their stories are told through Kasia, Caroline, and Herta. ”If I’d known I was about to meet the man who’d shatter me like bone china on terra-cotta, I would have slept in.” - Caroline Caroline is based on the true story of Caroline Ferriday, a former Broadway actress and socialite who was also known for taking up the cause for those Polish women who had been held as prisoners at Ravensbrück, but during the war she lent her talents and resources to helping raise funds and send care packages for the orphans in France. Kasia is a young woman, eighteen, from Lublin, Poland who becomes involved with the Resistance, and as a result she is arrested, along with her sister and her mother. They are transported to Ravensbrück, where Herta, Dr. Herta Oberhauser, a newly graduated surgeon – female surgeon – has recently applied for a position. Kasia and her sister’s stories are based, somewhat loosely, on a pair of sisters who did survive Ravensbrück. Martha Hall Kelly has put in her research, and it shows. Herta, who is another character based on the real Dr. Herta Oberhauser, received a book of her own on medicine -‘Atlas of General Surgery’ - when she accompanies her father on a visit to his favourite “treater of the sick”, a man she refers to as Katz, a doctor by right, but Jews were no longer seen as doctors. When her father tells the “treater of the sick” of her desire to be a surgeon, which, under national socialism she was not allowed to specialize in, Dr. Katz gives her this ‘Atlas’ with the instructions that she’s to bring it back once she’s finished reading it, and he’ll loan her another. She reads through it quickly, and makes her way back to his home to exchange it for another only to find him gone, and the SS carrying out boxes of his books. ”It was sad to see someone’s possessions taken in such a way, but the Jews had been warned. They knew the Führer’s requirements. This was unfortunate, but not new, and it was for the good of Germany.” Eventually, all these stories weave into one, a tapestry of pain, horror, sadness, and even some love and beauty. Grace, even. Hopefully, stories like these will never be forgotten, and hopefully we’ll get to a point where we won’t need to remember them. In the meantime, I am left feeling a bit haunted by this story, by the stories of these women, and all they endured. “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” ― Norman Maclean, ‘A River Runs Through It Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Leopold

    This book, based upon a true story, is about three women during World War 2. Caroline Ferriday is a single New York socialite who does volunteer work for the French Consulate aiding orphans. Compassionate about her work, twenty-something Caroline wants to do something meaningful with her life. We follow her life through WW2 and how her she ultimately ends up helping raise money to rehabilitate women whose lives were severely impacted at Ravensbruck . Kasia Kuzmerick is a 17 year old, living in Po This book, based upon a true story, is about three women during World War 2. Caroline Ferriday is a single New York socialite who does volunteer work for the French Consulate aiding orphans. Compassionate about her work, twenty-something Caroline wants to do something meaningful with her life. We follow her life through WW2 and how her she ultimately ends up helping raise money to rehabilitate women whose lives were severely impacted at Ravensbruck . Kasia Kuzmerick is a 17 year old, living in Poland who joins the resistance when her country is invaded by the Nazis. She is from a tight- knit family consisting of a sister, Zuzanna, a medical student, and her parents. Herta Oberheuser is a German doctor who takes a medical position in Ravensbruck, a forced labor camp for women under the Nazi regime. Herta is the villain of the story. The lives of these women intertwine in a sad yet powerful story. Until I read this book, I was unaware of the horrors that took place at Ravensbruck. The book can be intense at times but is very well written. I appreciated that the book did not end at the liberation of the camp. The stories continue, and we are able to gain insight into some of struggles and issues faced by families after the war. This is an excellent historical fiction novel. The author provides a nice follow up at the end discussing how her writing of this novel started. This is a debut novel by the author. I look forward to her next book that I hear is in the works! Giveaway on my blog until 2/13 of new paperback version available 2/28 https://www.facebook.com/suzyapproved...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*

    Lilac Girls is a quietly powerful book set in the second World War and based on a true story. It is well narrated by three different narrators, one for each POV. The story is told through the eyes of Caroline Ferraday, New York Socialite; Kasia Kuzmerick , a young Polish woman; and Herta Oberheuser a young German Doctor, whose lives are set on a collusion course. In my eyes, this is a 'must read' book. And when you do, don't skip the author's note at the end on how the book came to be written. fo Lilac Girls is a quietly powerful book set in the second World War and based on a true story. It is well narrated by three different narrators, one for each POV. The story is told through the eyes of Caroline Ferraday, New York Socialite; Kasia Kuzmerick , a young Polish woman; and Herta Oberheuser a young German Doctor, whose lives are set on a collusion course. In my eyes, this is a 'must read' book. And when you do, don't skip the author's note at the end on how the book came to be written. for while I managed to stay dry eyed while I listened to the actual novel, Martha Hall Kelly's spiel at the end had me in tears.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dana Ilie

    Martha Hall Kelly’s prose and style are both just beautiful. It’s a style that both stands separate from the plot and also enlightens and enhances it. I often paused to admire a particular phrase or a gorgeous description or a well expressed emotion. This is the type of language that I just want to read slowly to soak up. This novel was the three perspectives. I love novels that give us the narrative inside the heads of multiple narrators. Kelly does this seamlessly and beautifully. She creates Martha Hall Kelly’s prose and style are both just beautiful. It’s a style that both stands separate from the plot and also enlightens and enhances it. I often paused to admire a particular phrase or a gorgeous description or a well expressed emotion. This is the type of language that I just want to read slowly to soak up. This novel was the three perspectives. I love novels that give us the narrative inside the heads of multiple narrators. Kelly does this seamlessly and beautifully. She creates vivid and meaningful stories from the eyes of each of the women. If only the chapters didn’t end on such tantalizing cliff hangers! I was definitely pushed to keep reading as a Caroline chapter ended with questions that took several chapters to return to! I love that Caroline is a real person and actually helped so many people find a better life both during and after the war. I found her story to be unique and intriguing. There are a lot of novels about WWII (and I’m a fan of many!) but few focus on Americans connecting with the conflicts in such specific and raw ways. I loved the interactions between Caroline and the Polish women. Caroline is an inspiration but she is also flawed. I found her complex character fascinating; the ways she changed and grew in wisdom were compelling and inspiring. I really appreciated the postwar chapters and would have liked more of the book in that time period. This isn’t a part of WWII history that I have read much about so I wanted more development in those chapters. I appreciated learning more about occupied Poland and life under both Hitler and Stalin. What made Kasia’s voice interesting is the ways she learns to (or is forced to) cope with her experiences in Ravensbruck when she returns to Poland. I would have liked more development and more specific details about how she and her family coped postwar. While I can appreciate the unique point of view of a Nazi doctor, I gradually grew to dislike her and the way she hardened. I haven’t read any novel that includes a Nazi sympathizing protagonist. It was interesting and also difficult to read her point of view. But what I disliked is how Herta chose to be hardened (see the women as experiments and placing the science above humans) to what was happening in the camps.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dorie - Traveling Sister :)

    I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This was a difficult book to read and review. At one point early on in this novel I almost put it aside. The atrocities that it outlines in great, graphic detail, were almost too much for me. Then, curious about the author, I went on her website where she describes how she came to write this novel. It was here that I discovered that the main characters in the book are based on the lives of real people. Reading about a I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This was a difficult book to read and review. At one point early on in this novel I almost put it aside. The atrocities that it outlines in great, graphic detail, were almost too much for me. Then, curious about the author, I went on her website where she describes how she came to write this novel. It was here that I discovered that the main characters in the book are based on the lives of real people. Reading about all of the author’s research on Ms. Ferriday and her travels to Ravensbruck made me want to read this book. The story is told from three different points of view. Caroline Ferriday, was a New York socialite working with the French Consulate in New York at the beginning of the story. She works to put together boxes with clothing and personal items to be sent to the French children who were orphaned during the war. Because she was well known among the wealthy society women of New York she is able to raise much needed funds to continue her work for the orphans. She holds numerous balls and other functions in order to raise awareness as well as money. Herta Oberheuser, is a young German doctor, the only female doctor at Ravensbruck. She believes and totally agrees with Hitler’s plans for the country. She is part of the group of doctors that performed horrific experiments on healthy Polish women. Their legs were often operated on, introducing objects as well as bacteria into them with the supposed goal of learning how to best heal the German soldiers at the front. The women suffered terribly with no access to pain medication. These women were often called “rabbits” because after the surgeries they often hopped about on one healthy leg and also because they were the Nazi’s experimental “rabbits”. Kasia is a young Polish woman working with the underground resistance in Poland who was captured, along with her mother and sister, and imprisoned at Ravensbruck and she was one of almost 50 women who were operated on. The characters were very real to me. I sat reading about Herta and wondering how anyone could be so cruel, so heartless, so completely blinded by ambition and Hitler’s world, to perform those horrific operations on other women. Caroline Ferriday contributed so much to the rehabilitation of the formerly imprisoned Polish women. After the war when it becomes known what really happened at Ravensbruck, Caroline sought out the women who were the “rabbits”. She again rallied the wealthy people that she knew and was able to bring a number of the women to the United States where they were operated upon, this time with some wonderful success in restoring function to the parts of their body that had been maimed. The strength and resolve of these women is amazing. Not only did they survive their horrors but also managed to get the word out to the free world about what was happening. Later they helped bring justice to the world by pointing out and speaking against the doctors at Ravensbruck when they were charged with crimes against humanity. In re-reading my review I realized that I make the book sound very dry, it isn't at all. There is much emotion here and relationships between prisoners, Ms. Ferriday's friends, etc. I have just pointed out the bones of the book and how I felt about it. It is a book that you will get caught up in because the characters are real and their friendships and loved ones are what kept most all of them going to pursue their goal. Survival was the goal of the prisoners and for Ms. Ferriday and her friends the goal was to lend help to orphans and women prisoners and to ensure that those responsible will be held to account for their actions. At the end of the book there is a very comprehensive author’s note which states many of the things which I found on Ms. Kelly’s website. I would still encourage you to visit the site as there are photos and more information about her research and Ravensbruck.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    This was a fascinating read, not quite perfect,so four rather than five stars, but still a book I would recommend everyone to read. I found out so much more than I already knew about World War 11, particularly as to what happened in Poland during and after the war. I also found it necessary after reading the book to research a bit more in order to fully understand it all. My only reservation was that I never really felt attached to any of the characters. I was duly shocked by all they had to endur This was a fascinating read, not quite perfect,so four rather than five stars, but still a book I would recommend everyone to read. I found out so much more than I already knew about World War 11, particularly as to what happened in Poland during and after the war. I also found it necessary after reading the book to research a bit more in order to fully understand it all. My only reservation was that I never really felt attached to any of the characters. I was duly shocked by all they had to endure but I never really felt a part of it myself which was a shame. Nevertheless it was a great story, well told and very emotive. Proof too that not all war heroes are men by a long shot!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jonetta

    This is a fictional story of the real-life women who were subjected to medical experiments at Hitler's Ravensbrüch concentration camp, the only one exclusively for women. The story is told from three narratives: Caroline Ferriday, a New York debutant and socialite who worked tirelessly on behalf of French orphans before and at the war's outbreak; Kasia Kuzmerick, a young Polish woman who was subjected to these experiments at Ravensbrüch; and Herta Oberheuser, one of the camp doctors (the only fe This is a fictional story of the real-life women who were subjected to medical experiments at Hitler's Ravensbrüch concentration camp, the only one exclusively for women. The story is told from three narratives: Caroline Ferriday, a New York debutant and socialite who worked tirelessly on behalf of French orphans before and at the war's outbreak; Kasia Kuzmerick, a young Polish woman who was subjected to these experiments at Ravensbrüch; and Herta Oberheuser, one of the camp doctors (the only female one) conducting the experiments. I thought I was familiar with most of the atrocities of the Holocaust but the plight of these women, referred to as the Ravensbrüch Rabbits because of the abnormalities of their gaits resulting from the tests, was a new account for me. Using the voices of a victim, perpetrator and savior helped to vividly portray the complete perspective. As distasteful and dispassionate as I found Herta's point of view, it was essential to the story and made a big difference. One of the reasons I enjoy historical fiction is the opportunity to learn something about a period of time that I didn't know previously. So much of this story was enlightening and I especially liked learning about Caroline Ferriday who is not a fictional character and lived a life of charity and substance. It's a haunting, difficult story but I'm glad I read this book, one of unlikely heroes and incredible sisterhood.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    3.5 stars. The basis for this book is interesting, based as it is on two real individuals and a composite for the third. At the beginning, you wonder how the three story lines will become entwined. It doesn't take long for the first two to merge, as the Polish girl finds herself at Ravensbruck and the German woman takes work as a doctor there. The weakness in the book is the characters themselves, especially Herta, the German. I would have liked to seen it fleshed out more how she reconciled her 3.5 stars. The basis for this book is interesting, based as it is on two real individuals and a composite for the third. At the beginning, you wonder how the three story lines will become entwined. It doesn't take long for the first two to merge, as the Polish girl finds herself at Ravensbruck and the German woman takes work as a doctor there. The weakness in the book is the characters themselves, especially Herta, the German. I would have liked to seen it fleshed out more how she reconciled herself with the experiments she helps conduct at Ravensbruck. It's the same with Caroline Ferriday. She seemed to be missing a backstory. Why was she so different than her peers? What made her care when so many others were willing to turn a blind eye? The author has done her homework and there are interesting tidbits of information that I assume are true, like German girls being encouraged to have children out of wedlock to populate the Rhineland. Or after the war, how the French powered their cars with a wood burning stove on the back. This book had great potential but didn't quite fulfill it. Re-read9/18. My initial concerns remain the same. But that said, I found the book drew me in more this time than on my first read. The author’s note actually does a better job of explaining Caroline than the book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn C.

    Do not let the idyllic cover of this book fool you; three girls, arm in arm, having a leisurely stroll together. This book is about Ravensbruck, a women's concentration camp located in northern Germany, during World War II. Over 130,000 women went through this camp with the majority never leaving: dying from disease, starvation or execution. These women were also subjected to grotesque experiments that would leave them disfigured, sterilized or dead. They would become known as the Ravensbruck ra Do not let the idyllic cover of this book fool you; three girls, arm in arm, having a leisurely stroll together. This book is about Ravensbruck, a women's concentration camp located in northern Germany, during World War II. Over 130,000 women went through this camp with the majority never leaving: dying from disease, starvation or execution. These women were also subjected to grotesque experiments that would leave them disfigured, sterilized or dead. They would become known as the Ravensbruck rabbits. Martha Hall Kelly's debut novel is eye opening and disturbing to read at times. The book alternates between three stories, Caroline Ferriday, Herta Oberheuser, and Kasia Kuzmerick. Two of those stories, Caroline's and Herta's, are based on real people. I found the beginning of the book with the alternating stories to be distracting and a little confusing at times. There is a wonderful thread of sisterhood and friendship in this story. With everything and everyone that was taken from them, all these women had were each other. Although, it is difficult to read about the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust, this book is a must read for everyone. 4.5 Stars rounded up to 5 Stars

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Blankfein

    Follow me on Book Nation by Jen for all my reviews and recommendations. https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com If you missed the release of Lilac Girls, now is the time to buy the paperback. It is historical fiction based on true and harrowing events during World War II. For me, the Holocaust has always been mostly about how the Jews were prosecuted; a devastating time in our history across the world. But of course the Jewish people were not the only ones who were affected. Author Martha Hall Kelly Follow me on Book Nation by Jen for all my reviews and recommendations. https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com If you missed the release of Lilac Girls, now is the time to buy the paperback. It is historical fiction based on true and harrowing events during World War II. For me, the Holocaust has always been mostly about how the Jews were prosecuted; a devastating time in our history across the world. But of course the Jewish people were not the only ones who were affected. Author Martha Hall Kelly gets up close and personal with Kasia, a young Polish girl with Jewish ancestry who is completing secret missions for the underground anti-war efforts and is captured by the Gestapo with her sister and her mother… Herta, an out of work, German doctor who is offered a job at the women’s re-education camp and forced to execute by lethal injections… and Caroline, a New York francophile who sent supplies to the orphanages in France and who becomes a hero and savior to many. Each chapter is about one of the three women; we learn about their everyday lives and challenges, love, relationships, hope and dreams as they navigate life during the war. The most inspiring character for me is the reality based Caroline Ferriday. She works for the French consulate, sending money and supplies to those in France during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Ultimately she learns of the Rabbits, this courageous group of young women being held at the concentration camp who were victims of a tragic medical experiment…horrible surgeries performed on them unnecessarily, their legs mangled and infected on purpose by the camp doctors to see what medicines worked, how much pain could be tolerated and which infections could be treated. Many women died of this horrendous torture, but approximately 75 strong willed victims survived. After Hitler was defeated, Caroline sought them out and brought all of these women to NYC for medical treatment and a tour of the United States. If you have the chance to see author Martha Hall Kelly speak, do it! You will hear about her research process for this book and how she travelled to Poland and had the privilege of meeting and interviewing several of the surviving Rabbits. She has also spent countless hours at Caroline Ferriday’s summer house in Connecticut where the women stayed when they came overseas. Her information gathering and writing process along with her book, Lilac Girls, are fascinating, and lucky for us, a prequel is in the making! My book group and I were thrilled to spend a little time with Martha, hearing the back story and asking some questions. Lilac Girls is a book not to be missed!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay - Traveling Sister

    Excellent book! 5 stars! One of my favourite books of 2016!! Told from three characters' viewpoints, I was completely enthralled in each storyline. Very disturbing and horrific subject matter when reading about what went on at the concentration camp - hard to read at times and hard to believe this book is based on true events. Very well written - I was hooked from the first page to the very last page in the Author's Note. It was interesting to read about the author's journey through researching Excellent book! 5 stars! One of my favourite books of 2016!! Told from three characters' viewpoints, I was completely enthralled in each storyline. Very disturbing and horrific subject matter when reading about what went on at the concentration camp - hard to read at times and hard to believe this book is based on true events. Very well written - I was hooked from the first page to the very last page in the Author's Note. It was interesting to read about the author's journey through researching and writing this novel in the Author's Note.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I loved this book! I have read a lot of books - both fiction and non-fiction - centered around WWII and the Holocaust. I don't think I've ever read one that looked at that time period from three different points of view. (I could say more about that, but it might be a spoiler, and I hate spoilers!) I didn't want to put this book down. MUST READ! I've seen it on LOTS of lists of popular books, and now I completely understand why! It deserves to be on "READ THIS BOOK NOW!" lists!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    When done well, historical fiction novels can deeply connect readers to our shared human history and "teach" even better than many non-fiction texts. Lilac Girls is simultaneously heart breaking and heart warming, depressing and uplifting, as it weaves the story of women from Poland, the U.S. and Germany during WWII. Much has been been written about the book's plot, which I will not re-hash in detail here. The book's primary focus is on the group of Polish women sent to the Ravensbruk concentrati When done well, historical fiction novels can deeply connect readers to our shared human history and "teach" even better than many non-fiction texts. Lilac Girls is simultaneously heart breaking and heart warming, depressing and uplifting, as it weaves the story of women from Poland, the U.S. and Germany during WWII. Much has been been written about the book's plot, which I will not re-hash in detail here. The book's primary focus is on the group of Polish women sent to the Ravensbruk concentration camp who were subjected to inhumane medical experimentation, and the American philanthropist who worked tirelessly for their recovery after the war. The book includes an excellent author's note which should not be skipped. While listening to this book I did ponder why there are so many books about WWII. I think one important reason why authors continue to write (and readers continue to read) about this era is that we still haven't learned all the lessons from that time in history. The big questions -- How could these leaders come to power? How could we do this to other human beings? Why did good people just go along with these terrible orders? -- still vex us. 4.5 stars rounded up. Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for a galley of this book in exchange for an honest review. Although I had a galley, I listened to the audio version of the book. The audio was merely "okay", so my recommendation would be to go for the text.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bam

    *3.5 stars. Lilac Girls is an extensively-researched piece of historical fiction and quite engaging story based on the war-time activities of Caroline Ferriday, NY socialite, actress and humanitarian. Her story and that of two other women, one fictional and one real, are told in alternating chapters. In the fall of 1939, Caroline is volunteering as head of family assistance for the French Consulate in New York, trying to aid wealthy travelers fleeing the uncertainties in France. She is also busy *3.5 stars. Lilac Girls is an extensively-researched piece of historical fiction and quite engaging story based on the war-time activities of Caroline Ferriday, NY socialite, actress and humanitarian. Her story and that of two other women, one fictional and one real, are told in alternating chapters. In the fall of 1939, Caroline is volunteering as head of family assistance for the French Consulate in New York, trying to aid wealthy travelers fleeing the uncertainties in France. She is also busy raising money for supplies to aid French orphans to whom she sends comfort packages. Her story eventually intertwines with two others: one is a young Polish girl named Kasia who is thrilled to be allowed to do a job or two for the Polish resistance as Germany invades their country. But her amateur attempts lead to her arrest, along with some close family and friends, and the women are sent to Ravensbruck, the all-woman concentration camp in Bavaria, Germany. There they endure unspeakable conditions and Kasia and her sister are among at least 70 girls at the camp who are subjected to life-threatening experimental surgeries performed by Dr. Herta Oberheuser, the third character in the story, based on the only woman doctor at the all-female Ravensbruck camp. It is hard to understand how a woman could do these horrible things to other women and I'm not quite sure author Martha Kelly fully addresses that question in this story. Herta goes from balking at giving lethal injections at first to doing pretty much anything asked of her. How did that transition come about? The story spans 20 years, from 1939 to 1959, and allows the reader to see the longterm effects of the war on parts of Europe and some of the lasting harm done to its victims, both mental and physical. It also shows how life was no better for the Poles under Russian control after the war ended--that is often forgotten. Overall the story is very interesting but one of the things I didn't care for in Kelly's writing style were the occasional cliff-hanger style chapter endings, making the reader wait through two more chapters of the other characters' stories to learn what happened. For example: the Nazis seem about to unearth Papa's buried stash in the garden...but several chapters later we learn that their pet chicken is what the Nazis discover and seize. Martha Kelly invents a romance for her heroine but doesn't allow it to get over a huge hurdle after the war ends--largely because Caroline refuses to communicate with him or read his letters. Was anyone else dying to know what he had written? I am grateful to the author for bringing the philanthropy of Caroline Ferriday to light in this story. It was so remarkable how she and her mother tirelessly sought help for many of the needy, most especially for the Ravensbruck 'Rabbits'--those women who were lab experiments and badly needed help to recover from their injuries. A personal note: I had to laugh when I read that the French orphans rejected Caroline's donation of cases of Ovaltine, saying that it tasted like grass, and it had to be sold off for pennies. I remember well bugging my mother to buy some Ovaltine, then refusing to drink it after one taste. My mother was determined to make me sit there until I did, but I was more stubborn than she was.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    The best thing about this story is that it's based on real people and real events. From the main characters to the individual Ravensbruck doctors and prison guards to the inmates of the concentration camp, Hall Kelly has done her research and then some. I did my own research after reading this, including visiting Hall Kelly's website, and became engrossed in the backstory, especially what happened to some of the protagonists in the story. Just seeing some of these people's pictures gave me goose The best thing about this story is that it's based on real people and real events. From the main characters to the individual Ravensbruck doctors and prison guards to the inmates of the concentration camp, Hall Kelly has done her research and then some. I did my own research after reading this, including visiting Hall Kelly's website, and became engrossed in the backstory, especially what happened to some of the protagonists in the story. Just seeing some of these people's pictures gave me goosebumps. The story is focused around 3 main characters during World War II - Kasia, a young Polish girl; Caroline, a New York socialite; and Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor who accepts a job at Ravensbruck, a "re-education center" for women (aka a concentration camp). Their narrations alternate and eventually come together at the end. While based on real people and real events, it is still a work of fiction with imagined dialogue and additional characters and events invented to dramatize or humanize the story. It mostly worked, but the weakest party of the story (for me) was Caroline's fictitious romance with Paul. It never felt real to me or particularly compelling against the backdrop of the other harrowing stories. The most interesting character to me was Dr. Herta Oberheuser. I think Hall Kelly did a pretty good job of capturing her essence, but because this book spans so many years and so many lives, the characters felt a little thin. I wanted more depth, especially with Herta - I cannot get my head around her actions. Still - the thing here is the story. Not beautiful writing or complicated psychological analysis of the characters but a compelling piece of historical fiction that introduced me to "the rabbits." I knew about the medical experiments at concentration camps and the inhumanity, but I didn't know specifically about THESE women and their story. It's so important that we hear and feel these stories! "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana) My maternal grandparents came to the U.S. from Poland in the early 1900's and my paternal grandparents are of German heritage, so perhaps that made this extra interesting to me. A 3.5 for me, rounding up to a 4 for the research, passion and love that the author put into it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I have read many books about World War ll, but had not heard of Ravensbruck concentration camp and the inhumane medical experimentations that happened there. This story was told by three different women during the course of 20 years, two Polish sisters who ended up in the camp, and a wonderful, beautiful soul who was New York based, who did so much to help during and after the war. I will remember these women!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrei Bădică

    Romanul "Când înflorește liliacul" prezintă viața a trei femei din timpul celui de-Al Doilea Război Mondial: newyorkeza Caroline Ferriday care este șefa departamentului de asistență a familiei pentru Consulatul Franței din New York, Kasia Kuzmerick în vârstă de șaptesprezece ani, elevă la Școala catolică pentru fete Sfânta Monica din Lublin, Polonia și Herta Oberheusen, absolventă a Școlii de medicină din Dusseldorf. Fiecare dintre ele simte războiul pe propria piele, chiar dacă din unghiuri di Romanul "Când înflorește liliacul" prezintă viața a trei femei din timpul celui de-Al Doilea Război Mondial: newyorkeza Caroline Ferriday care este șefa departamentului de asistență a familiei pentru Consulatul Franței din New York, Kasia Kuzmerick în vârstă de șaptesprezece ani, elevă la Școala catolică pentru fete Sfânta Monica din Lublin, Polonia și Herta Oberheusen, absolventă a Școlii de medicină din Dusseldorf. Fiecare dintre ele simte războiul pe propria piele, chiar dacă din unghiuri diferite. Fiind un pasionat de istorie, chiar mi-a plăcut această carte. Autoarea a reușit să surprindă, pe lângă cunoscutele orgii ale războiului realizate de naziști, cum ar fi lagărul de concentrare exclusiv pentru femei Ravensbruck unde au avut loc experimente pe femeile poloneze, numite "Iepuri", deoarece țopăiau de bucurie după operație și au reprezentat iepurii pe care germanii au făcut experimentele cu sulfamidă care au lăsat în urmă femei paralizate, picioare rupte și multă ură, și o poveste de dragoste, aceea dintre actorul Paul Rodierre și Caroline Ferriday. Dacă vreți să vă încânte această operă foarte reușită, savurați-o în doze mici. "O clipă mai târziu am auzit mitralierele. Trăgeau în lăptărese. Unele gloanțe loveau câmpul și trimiteau în aer nori de praf, trântindu-le la pământ și răsturnând laptele în iarbă. O vacă a mugit când a căzut în răpăitul gloanțelor ce străpungeau donițele de metal." "Apoi Nadia a icnit, cu un pumn pe piept, cu privirea fixată asupra piciorului meu. Unul dintre ciorapii bărbătești de lână desperecheați pe care îi obținusem contra pastei noastre de dinți alunecase pe jos, pentru a scoate la lumină gamba vindecată deja, dar micșorată și zbârcită, lipsită de oase și tendoane, cu pielea lucioasă și întinsă."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alex Farrand

    4.5 stars. Lilac Girls is a heartbreaking tale about a group of Polish women, who are referred to as the 'Rabbits', during World War II. The novel is based on a true story. Martha Kelly used two women's histories, and provided a somewhat graphic tale of the Rabbit's hardships, and second chances for a new life after their time at a concentration camp named Ravensbrück. At Ravensbrück some Polish woman were subjected to medical experiments. Doctors broke bones, removed muscles, added bacteria, an 4.5 stars. Lilac Girls is a heartbreaking tale about a group of Polish women, who are referred to as the 'Rabbits', during World War II. The novel is based on a true story. Martha Kelly used two women's histories, and provided a somewhat graphic tale of the Rabbit's hardships, and second chances for a new life after their time at a concentration camp named Ravensbrück. At Ravensbrück some Polish woman were subjected to medical experiments. Doctors broke bones, removed muscles, added bacteria, and etc in multiple operations, to recreate trauma that happened on the battlefields. Therefore, the Polish women were called the 'Rabbits', because many women would hop around. Lilac Girls was written in three point of views: Carolina Ferriday in 1958, after WWII ended, searched and helped the Rabbits or Ravensbrück Ladies with medical care in the States. She was in the upperclass society. She, along with her mother, took charge of many charities. Carolina volunteered at the French consulate, and helped the French orphans. She loved France, and even had a summer home in Paris. With her connections and a foot hole in France, she could help the Polish women once again stand on their own two feet. Herta Oberheuser was one of the Ravensbrück's doctors who operated on the women into disfigurement. She was ambitious, and wanted to show her skill in a "man's world." She was fighting to show the Reich that she was great doctor, and she would go to extreme limits. After the war, she was sentences to twenty years. She was released early, and became a family physician in Germany. In 1958, her medical license was revoked. I argue that Lilac Girls is not about these two real women. Yes, you can google them. The story is about Kasia Kuzmerick, or all the Poland natives who were operated on and survived/killed. Kasia represents all the Polish women who were taken by German soldiers and sent to that horrible concentration camp to die by forced labor, starvation, or shot. She represents that agony that the Rabbits undergone, and how they were given a second chance, when they all asked for death at one time or another. Lilac Girls is their story. From the start I was engrossed in the novel. WWII has always interested me, and basically why I choose to read this remarkable novel. It is an era my father and I discuss a lot about. I find the time revolting, and upsetting in the human race. Still, it is a time that mesmerizes me, and I don't completely understand why it happened. I have never read this story before. I thought the novel was a little long, but I might have created that problem. I researched a little bit about Caroline, so I knew she would help out. I was constantly watching for her to save the day. I finally realized, in the middle of the book, that it wasn't Caroline's story, and her rescuing these Polish women from Herta's cold hands was not going to happen. I thought some more after I finished reading that I just wanted to see anyone in a concentration camp let free, and I was growing impatient for the end of the war. I had an epiphany a hour ago that Martha Kelly might have dragged the concentration camp scenes on purpose, because that is how a prisoner would have felt. Their life was an endless, dark day of survival. They did not know if tomorrow they would wake up, or have their death sentenced. Some probably wished for death, to find themselves breathing the next day, while their companion lays breathless. I can only imagine it was dreadful, and the seconds were an eternity. In turn, it was a remarkable way to describe how all three of these women felt during WWII. WWII probably felt like a eternity for Herta waiting for Germans to reign supreme. For Caroline waiting for the war to end, and hopefully have Paul in her arms once again. I loved Caroline. I liked how Martha developed Caroline into this stronger women, and have her really appreciated her work to help others who needed it most. Even though she might have been determined to change her demeanor for a romantic relationship, but sometimes love motivates you to do greater things. Kasia was heartbreaking to watch in the concentration camp. I am glad that Martha showed the PTSD that developed, and their coping skills. Herta I was really, really hoping would turn to save the prisoners, but sadly no. Mrs. Kelly probably could have created a more grotesque scene of the operation, but it was enough for me. I could imagine the worst of the worst. Herta was probably meaner, but she was looking out for her best interest. As the only female doctor at the camp, she wanted to show her skills and be the best. I am not saying what she did wasn't wrong. My gosh, it was horrifying, and I am glad she was punished. The audio version was great. Three different narrators helped a lot, and I could hear in their voices the raw emotions that applied with the scene. I almost cried a few times, and I felt struggle that each of them held. I do want the physical book, just to have on hand, but the audio was great to listen too. If you like WWII novels I would recommend this book to you. It is another story about a horrible time in human history that can never be forgiven. Hopefully, we can live and learn from the past. Happy reading. Read my blog here: http://dancingbetweenthecovers.com/

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brenda - Traveling Sister

    Lilac Girls is a haunting, powerful and deeply moving story which I found to be extremely interesting. I can be a bit careful as to what historical fiction I choose to read and reaching too far out of my comfort zone. I am glad I did with Lilac Girls. Lilac Girls is told from three women’s perspectives; two of them based on real-life people with different backgrounds. I like how the stories start off separately for each woman, then as the story unfolds their lives intersect and we learn how each Lilac Girls is a haunting, powerful and deeply moving story which I found to be extremely interesting. I can be a bit careful as to what historical fiction I choose to read and reaching too far out of my comfort zone. I am glad I did with Lilac Girls. Lilac Girls is told from three women’s perspectives; two of them based on real-life people with different backgrounds. I like how the stories start off separately for each woman, then as the story unfolds their lives intersect and we learn how each had a part in the Ravensbuck experiments and the aftermath of it. I love when a book teaches me something, takes me out of my comfort zone and I learn something about myself. That’s what Martha Hall Kelly has done for me with Lilac Girls. https://twogirlslostinacouleereading....

  29. 5 out of 5

    Susan Meissner

    Read for the book club I'm in after having it on my nightstand, calling out to be read for more than a year. I can see why it's so beloved by its many readers and it's not hard to give it five stars for the beauty of the writing, the emotional depth of the characters and the raw and wrenching detailing of the brutality of WW2. The cover with those three women walking so close together has intrigued me from the moment I bought the book as a hardcover when it first came out. The actual story is di Read for the book club I'm in after having it on my nightstand, calling out to be read for more than a year. I can see why it's so beloved by its many readers and it's not hard to give it five stars for the beauty of the writing, the emotional depth of the characters and the raw and wrenching detailing of the brutality of WW2. The cover with those three women walking so close together has intrigued me from the moment I bought the book as a hardcover when it first came out. The actual story is different than what the cover projects, at least to me and many members of my club, but we decided it is up to the reader to decide who those three women are. If you've read the book, I'd be curious to hear if you agree. I was also unaware until I read the Acknowledgements that the character Caroline was a real person, a heroine any way you look at it, and someone I would've liked to have known. Highly recommend...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Thank you to NetGalley and Random House: Ballantine for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. This is a beautiful, unsettling and exquisitely written book. Lovingly researched and inspired by the true story of the Ravensbrück “lapins” (Rabbits) and their “godmother”, Caroline Ferriday. Ravensbrück was a women-only concentration camp run by the Nazis during World War II. Having just finished Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, I have a grotesque knowledge of the innumerabl Thank you to NetGalley and Random House: Ballantine for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. This is a beautiful, unsettling and exquisitely written book. Lovingly researched and inspired by the true story of the Ravensbrück “lapins” (Rabbits) and their “godmother”, Caroline Ferriday. Ravensbrück was a women-only concentration camp run by the Nazis during World War II. Having just finished Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, I have a grotesque knowledge of the innumerable cruelties inflicted by women upon other women during the war, and had planned to learn more about Ravensbrück by reading the highly lauded If This Is A Woman: Inside Ravensbruck: Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women (still do). But I got my first taste of what life was like inside the camp from Lilac Girls, and oh, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I’d never heard of Caroline until reading Lilac Girls, but raced to find out more information about her once I realized that she did live, and that she did do such wonderful things for the survivors of Ravensbrück. These were women who were forced to undergo medical experiments while imprisoned at the camp. Ravaged, infected with bacteria, sterilized and tortured, these women – those who were not murdered by the Nazis – ended up being known as the Rabbits, and were brought to the United States for treatment by Ferriday in the 1950s. In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly tells not only Caroline’s story, but also that of (I believe, fictional) Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager working for the Resistance who ends up in the death camp, and German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, who accepts a position at Ravensbrück in order to further her medical career, which has been stymied by Hitler’s position on women in male-dominated environments. Initially, Caroline’s tale did not thrill me, nor did Herta’s. I felt anxious to get back to Kasia, anxious to learn what happened to her, to her mother and sister, to her friends and her love. I felt repelled by having to be inside Herta’s brain, watching with dawning horror as she lost what shred of humanity she had left, becoming riddled with rot. And yet, soon, I was drawn into each of the stories with equal fervor. I wanted to know about Caroline’s work, about her quiet, steadfast love for Paul, about Kasia’s suffering and unwavering aching love for her family, about Herta’s (vile) thoughts and actions, watching her justify and excuse herself, even as she attempted to hide. The banality of evil. Doing her duty. Just doing her duty. It became so real to me through Lilac Girls, how these people became what they did, how they had the soul excised from their bodies like a troublesome splinter. How the survivors rose, like flames, to return to their old lives… but how could they? How could they ever truly forget? The blackness remains in their bellies, like a tumour. I remember reading a quote once from a Holocaust survivor, who said they felt they had died in Auschwitz, but no one knew it. They had come back, but never truly come back. It’s beyond heartrending. It’s unfathomable, that much pain, like a tsunami, destroying cities and hearts and bodies. Martha Hall Kelly has captured that pain, that sisterhood in suffering, that thread of love that no one – not even the Nazis – could break, the help that people gave, the millions of dead disappeared gone, the reunions and the reunions that never were and never could be. The true essence of what it means to lose everything, and then try to claw your way back. There are certain books about the Holocaust that haunt me ceaselessly (The devastating A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead being the most relentless), and I know that Lilac Girls will be one of them. An absolute triumph.

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