Kelly, Martha Hall. Lilac Girls. Ballantine. Apr. 2016. 491p. ISBN 9781101883075.
$26; ebk. ISBN 9781101883068. F
During World War II Polish teenager Kasia Kuzmerick’s decision to join the Resistance movement in her hometown results in her being exiled to the brutal Nazi concentration camp of Ravensbrück. There she becomes a victim of German doctor Herta Oberheuser, whose misguided patriotism and ambition lead her to perform horrific medical experiments on prisoners. Meanwhile, American socialite Caroline Ferriday spends the war sending relief overseas while experiencing the pain of a tortured love affair. The trauma of the conflict continues long after 1945 for all three women. It’s apparent that Kelly, who was inspired by real events and people, has done the research necessary to tell this extraordinarily powerful historical story well. She vividly evokes not only the horrors of the gruesome experiments but also the painful realities of trying to survive them and the difficult search for justice and closure afterward. While Herta remains a bit enigmatic compared to the other two main characters, the overall story of the three women’s intertwining lives is extremely moving and memorable. Verdict This impressive debut should appeal strongly to historical fiction readers and to book clubs that adored works such as Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. [Previewed in “Editors’ Spring Picks,” LJ 2/15/16; library and academic marketing.]—Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL
This review was published in Library Journal’s April 1, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35 percent off the regular subscription rate.