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!
As seen on Goodreads:
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.
About the Author:
Martha grew up in Massachusetts and now splits her time between Connecticut, New York City and Martha’s Vineyard. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years and raised three splendid children, while researching and writing Lilac Girls, her first novel. She is now hard at work on the prequel, thrilled she doesn’t have to say good-bye to Caroline and Eliza. You’ll find more info about the incredible, true story behind Lilac Girls at her website: http://www.marthahallkelly.com and lots of great pics on her ever-changing Pinterest pages.