Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Relly is an adult, historical fiction novel that takes place throughout WWII and follows three women with very different background.
Caroline is a 37 year old New York Socialite, who works at the French consulate and along with her mother is always looking for a new cause to fight for. Caroline had all but given up on love until she meets an unhappily married Frenchman, Paul. But when Hitler invades Poland in September 1939, Paul must return to France and Caroline’s life is changed forever.
Kasia is a 16 year old Polish girl, living in one of the first cities invaded by the Germans. Rules are strict and people are disappearing left and right. In her own act of rebellion, Kasia joins the Polish Underground and is soon caught and arrested. She is forced onto a train, along with her mother, sister, and the boy she loves sister, and is sent to a concentration camp.
Herta is a newly graduated German doctor, looking to prove her worth to the Mother County and find a place in a male dominated profession. Herta sees an ad for a government medical facility and soon finds herself in a role she wasn’t prepared for.
The lives of these three women intersect in various ways… across countries, continents and through cultural barriers.
Lilac Girls is not my normal genre. I usually only read a few historical fiction novels a year but I decided to join a local book club and this is the book they chose for the first meeting. I’ve got to admit, I have a TBR pile of new releases that I am dying to read, so it was really hard to get myself excited about this one. It wasn’t a bad read but it took me a while to get into it.
I have to say, one thing this book does right is to highlight historical aspects of WWII I haven’t read about before. I knew the Nazi’s did experiments at the camps but I wasn’t aware of the “rabbits” and the ways the camps rebelled in whatever small ways they could. I also really enjoyed Caroline’s story and was interested to find out that Caroline Ferriday was a real person.
One problem I had with this book, is that there were quite a few loose ends. For an almost 500 page book, I was looking for a bit more resolution. The only story that really tied up nicely was Kasia’s, whereas we are left to write our own ending to Caroline’s and Herta’s using a few bits and pieces. There was such a big build up to each of the girls’ stories, that the endings seemed somewhat unfinished.
The stories also felt massively disproportional. If I wasn’t so lazy, I would calculate how much book time each of the girls had. The intro to the girls focused mostly on Caroline; the middle on Kasia; and the end on a mix of Caroline and Kasia. Did anyone else notice this?
Overall, this wasn’t a bad read but I’ve read other historical fiction novels that called to me more. This one gets 3 stars from me.
That’s all for now!