My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Audio Book Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly


Synopsis (From Goodreads):
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.

I am fascinated with stories about WWII.  I think it is because I wonder how I would confront the hardships that the women of that time faced.  Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly, is a wonderful piece of historical fiction, giving the reader a glimpse of the lives of three very different women.  The horrors of war are on full display.  But the book also features the indomitable spirit of some extraordinary women. What is really exciting is that some of the characters are based on actual people.

What I Liked:
Main Characters:
I loved that each of the three main characters are very different people. Caroline, Herta, and Kasia are all in different circumstances.  I did empathize with each character for at least parts of their journeys.  But, as the war moves on, each are forced to make choices that will affect their moral centers.  While they all start out in a place of innocence, some move forward toward courageous acts, others are content to let the current of the times carry them forward.  Doing nothing seems passive, but is really an active choice that will need to be reconciled with later.  

Supporting Characters:
There are many secondary characters that were well developed, particularly in Kasia's story.  The bond between Kasia and her sister was very moving.  I also liked how the author uses Kasia's boyfriend to illustrate how people change after experiencing severe trauma.  

Narrative Structure:
Each chapter is told in alternating points of view, between Caroline, Herta, and Kasia.  So, this takes the reader from New York high society, to elite Germany, to working-class polish neighborhoods.  One can see how the entire world is affected by this war, and how interconnected each event is.

I loved that the three stories mesh into one by the end of the book!  Events that seem so disparate come together to show how most of these women survive and gain strength through their actions.

What I Didn't Like:
Caroline's Romance:
While Caroline's character is based on an actual New York socialite, her romance with Frenchman Paul, is pure fiction (this was stated in the author's notes).  I do understand the motives behind creating this love interest, but it was full of cliches and detracted from the story.  One soap-opera plot is piled upon another: Paul is married; Paul must go back to France, someone comes back from the dead!  If you weren't certain of it before, then after the third or fourth plot twist, you know this love affair is doomed.  Caroline, a single working woman in 1940's America, was fascinating enough.  She didn't need a romance to be worthy of the reader's interest.

Even with this problem, I adored this book.  It brings us into the lives of women I never would have known, myself.  It breaths life into history, which is what makes this genre one of my favorites.



Release Date:  April 5th, 2017

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Audio Book

Narrator:  Cassandra Campbell

Recommendation:  A great choice for a book club.  Lots of possibilities for for discussion as readers can debate all the choices these characters make!

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1 comment :

  1. I enjoyed this one too. Like you I love historical fiction, especially WW2, it was such a challenging time. The medical experiments in this one made me feel so bad, so many awful things happened and I like that through books that we never forget.


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