I've already talked about my love of Holocaust based historical fiction. I think I am so drawn to these stories because they are ones of resilience, humanity, and a reminder of how in the midst of evil, there can always be beauty. I also feel that these are stories that should be told, over and over again, so that we never forget the atrocities that occurred there (I don't just think this about the Holocaust - I think it so important to acknowledge the suffering of others at the hands of an oppressor). When Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly popped up on my suggested reading list on Libby, I knew I would dive right in to it. While I was reading, I shared a photo in my Instagram Stories with the cover of the book in it, and I had several of you reach out to tell me what a beautiful book it was.
Lilac Girls is the story of three women during World War II. The chapters are each told from one of these three women's points of view. Caroline Ferriday (who was a real person) is a New York socialite who volunteers for the French Embassy and provides care packages for French orphans. She has a blooming relationship that is cut short when the Nazis invade France. During the war, she does what she can to help but finds her efforts futile. It is after the war that she finds she is really able to affect change.
Kasia is a young Polish girl who has become involved in the resistance in her country. As a courier, one wrong move has her captured and she, her mother, and her sister are sent to Ravensbruck, a women's concentration camp in Poland. There, she and her sister are operated on and are part of the famous "rabbits of Ravensbruck". Her story is heartbreaking, but also shows the sisterhood that women were able to form, despite the atrocities of life in a concentration camp.
Dr. Herta Oberhauser, also a real person, is a young doctor who is excited to answer an ad for a government medical position. When she realizes that she is taking part in horrible things, she is conflicted, but she feels trapped in her position. She crosses paths with Kasia, her sister, and her mother at Ravensbruck, and their stories become intertwined.
The story follows the three women from when Poland was invaded by the Nazis in 1939, through 1959. Long after the war has ended, its effects are felt in ripples and in crashing waves by those who were affected.
It is a beautiful story of love, friendship, and finding the beauty in the ugly, and I definitely recommend picking it up.
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