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LILAC GIRLS by Martha Hall Kelly is set during World War II. It’s the story of three women whose lives intersect during the war. Caroline Ferriday is a humanitarian; Kasia Kuzmerick is a Polish prisoner in the Ravensbrück camp and is known as “a Rabbit” (you will have to read to find out why); and Herta Oberheuser is a doctor at the camp. Each woman’s story is told in stand-alone chapters. Martha writes such brilliant cliffhangers that more than once I found myself flipping to the character’s next chapter to discover what was going to happen!
The novel is historical fiction, based on the true story of the Polish women who were imprisoned at Ravensbrück, and how Caroline Ferriday, an American philanthropist, brought them to the U.S. Martha researched the story for over 10 years. The final pages of the book include the backstory on Caroline, who fought for the rights of those who were imprisoned overseas. The term "lilac girls" comes from her home, Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden, in Bethlehem, Connecticut, which is owned and operated by Connecticut Landmarks. Each spring, the lilacs come in bloom there and fill the air with an amazing scent. Martha visited for the lilacs and came away with the kernel of this story. Also, lilacs were known to bloom even after the harsh winters in Poland. Just as the Panama Hotel came to its fame in Seattle after Jamie Ford set his book, HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, there, I see the same happening for this house as groups migrate there after reading this book. I am hoping to clear time on my calendar in late May to make the trip!
Martha has a website chock full of notes and backstory that really enhances the experience once you have finished the book. This would be a fabulous book group read! Readers of THE NIGHTINGALE will have a particular interest in it.