Lilac Girls: A Novel pulls you in with its first lines of, “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.” Author Martha Hall Kelly hooked me immediately, and she gave me three different angles on the two decades that span before, during, and after World War II that I had not read about before. The book felt authentic, and at the end, Mrs. Kelly describes her journey of researching the people she based her characters upon in this historical fiction book.
This book alternates between the stories of three women, Lilac Girls: A Novel, whose lives overlap during these twenty years. From the picture on the cover, of women walking arm in arm, I assumed that these three women were close friends; however, the opposite is true for one of them.
One character’s angle startled me because I had never thought about the doctors that worked at Ravensbruck concentration camp during the Holocaust; one of the Lilac Girls: A Novel is a German woman doctor who chose to work at the concentration camp and became desensitized to what she was doing because she focused on just being able to practice surgery. Another girl is a Polish resistance worker sent to the camp who is chosen to be experimented upon. The last lady, who the first line of the book is about, is an American socialite whose care for people causes her life to intersect with the other characters.
Lilac Girls: A Novel portrays the hopelessness of the war, but then the hope as people re-build their lives; the joy at the end of the book surprised me because I was not sure if The Lilac Girls would make it to that level of restoration. I highly recommend reading Lilac Girls: A Novel because of its unique angle on World War II, the quality of writing, and the message of hope (even through hard life transitions) that it sends.
I stumbled across the book Lilac Girls: A Novel by Martha Hall Kelly by accident when I was looking up a book about lilacs; then I read a few chapters of the book at a family reunion over July 4th, and I was hooked! I tried to check The Lilac Girls out of the library, but the wait list felt too long. After reading another chapter at the airport bookstore, I bought a copy and finished it in three days. Check it out, and let me know what you think!
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