By Martha Kelly
Review by Susan Peterman
I discovered Lilac Girls while browsing in Wellington Bookstore. I had ancestors who survived the Holocaust, but did not communicate their stories and others who did not have an opportunity to tell their stories. I was interested in this historical novel of three heroic women whose stories converged following the war’s end. New York Socialite Caroline Ferriday, a former actress, assists a charity to rescue French orphans, Kasia, a Polish teenager who, unbeknownst to her, begins serving the resistance, and Herta, an ambitious surgeon, find themselves at opposite ends of history once Poland is invaded. The story is structured as separate narratives until their post-war activities bring them into contact with one another. The story is gripping and at times, horrifying.
Caroline’s story provides a romance albeit, an unfulfilled one, as a backstory. The characters of Caroline and Kasia are fully realized, based on their true stories. However, the character of Herta, a composite, has limited depth, since she was based on accounts of several women who served during the war. Or, the author may have intentionally portrayed her as one dimensional given her role in the war, since the inhumanity of a female surgeon who performed experimental surgeries on “rabbits”, the women who resided at Ravensbruck, a concentration camp, leaves little for the reader to comprehend.
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About the reviewer: Susan is an avid reader of historical fiction, contemporary fiction, mysteries, suspense/thrillers and essay.
This review is part of Book Your Summer, our 2017 Adult Summer Reading program.