Saturday, January 25, 2020

Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly)

Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls has been compared to The Nightingale (which I loved) and All the Light We Cannot See (which I didn't). As a reviewer, I would place it somewhere in the middle -- a worthwhile read with a few small issues.

In 1939, the world was jarred to its core when Hitler invaded Poland. Lilac Girls entrenches the reader firmly into this time period by telling the stories of Caroline Ferriday, Kasia Kuzmerick, and Herta Oberheuser. Caroline is dedicated to her position at the French consulate in New York and terrified about what Hitler will do to France. Kasia is a Polish teenager and dedicated just as much as Caroline to her own role in the secretive Polish resistance. Finally, Herta is a rare woman German physician who takes a job at Ravensbruck, a concentration camp exclusively for women.

Lilac Girls takes its shape when these characters' worlds begin to intersect. I didn't know anything about the Ravensbruck Rabbits, and it is the hallmark of a great book that makes you want to learn more about a topic. I found parts of it to be unputdownable (like the whole of The Nightingale) and other parts to be in need of serious editing (like All the Light We Cannot See). While about a hundred pages too long, Lilac Girls is a wonderful read for those interested in this dark part of history.