*I received a free copy of Lilac Girls from Ballantine Books via Netgalley. This has in no way influenced my voluntary review, which is honest and unbiased *
Warning: This book includes mature content such as: sexual content, and/or drug and/or alcohol use, and/or violence.
Published by Ballantine Books on 5 April 2016
Genres: Adult, Historical, Realistic Fiction
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.
Lilac Girls follows three young women from the very beginning of WWII, they are in very different situations, and following them was both tough, terrifying and strangely wonderful.
While Lilac Girls is a fiction novel, some of the story is based on a real person, and the letters she sent to people during WWII. I found the story to be incredibly well written, and showing the different points of views of the three main characters in an extraordinary way. One young woman was sent to a concentration camp, with her mother and her sister. Another young woman – who had almost finished her education to become a doctor, and she starts her work in a concentration camp. The third young woman lives in New York, works at the French Embassy, and wants to help French orphans during the war.
As you can probably imagine, the paths of these three women cross, and especially the two women in the concentration camp – at complete opposites – was truly chilling to read about. The doctor was so sure that what she was doing was really furthering science, that Hitler was a good man, and that Germans were the better race of people in the world. Reading the chapters from her perspective may have been what touched me the deepest – because while I still can’t understand how it’s possible for a human being to do to another human being what she did – it was mesmerizing to read her justifications, and to see how she thought what she was doing wasn’t really wrong.
The story spans over decades, and while we don’t spend very long moments at a time with each character, it was enough to get to know them, to understand what they were going through, and also to see what made them tick, so to speak. Written in first person point of view, with chapters from each of the women’s perspective, and in past tense, this novel is one that should be included in classrooms. There are many important themes here, and I think the most important might be to not demonize that which we can’t understand – to see all people as human beings.
Though I was reluctant to tell Mother, low attendance was inevitable, for Americans had become increasingly isolationist. the poll numbers showed that our country, still smarting from huge casualties in the First World War and from the Great Depression, was opposed to being swept into the new conflict.
It was hard not to become emotional driving through Fürstenberg, for I’d visited a similar town with my parents as a child, for fishing. This was the essence of Germany, so beautiful and unspoiled. What we were fighting for.
She’d always loved her horses and was more comfortable with a currycomb than a silver one, but it was sad to see such a beautiful woman give up on herself.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
I love this kind of novels and it’s great to see that you had a wonderful time with it! I’m curious now!
It was really well done, Melliane!
Interesting to have those three perspectives particularly the two at the concentration camp. Wow. Glad the author was brave enough to go there with both sides so it seemed a complete story.
Yeah, those two perspectives were chilling, really. And even with the doctor’s perspective – I had trouble completely understanding her, even if I kind of got her thought process.
WWII stories always get to me. This one has been displayed at the library a lot, but I have hesitated to pick it up.
I really enjoy WWII stories, too, Lekeisha. And I really found this one to be unique because it didn’t show the actual war, rather the consequences of that war in different places and how it impacted different people.
This sounds amazing. I really do love WWII novels. I actually have this to review but hadn’t been feeling like reading it and wanted to give it a fair chance. I think I will have to try and make some time for it now. Great review!
It was awesome, Grace. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!
It’s always amazing to read a GOOD depiction of the “otherside’s” POV of such a disturbing time in our history. Five stars? Fantastic!!! And great review, too!!!
Exactly, Kristin! Reading something from the other side’s perspective, in a way that makes it a bit easier to understand why they did what they did is amazing.
I have never been a big historical fiction fan, but I read two this year that I loved. I think this may be another that will suck me in, so I’m glad you enjoyed it. Great review. 🙂
YAY, Laura! This one was chilling, but so well done!
The power of brainwashing…
My son asked me to watch this documentary on Netflix. It’s WWII in color or something. Now I’m not familiar with the details of how the wars started, I just know the horrors and stuff, so I thought it’s a great way to educate myself. OMG, it’s so emotionally heavy. By the end, my son and I were in tears seeing the horrors of the conceptration camps. All those people who’ve been experimented on, tortured, killed like cattle.
So this doctor you spoke of have me curious. I don’t know how you can justify “cleansing” like that and the irony of Hitler wanting an superior Aryan race when he’s not even Aryan.
It was emotionally heavy, Braine, but also the kind of story I think is necessary – in part so that we don’t forget history.
I don’t really understand how one can justify the ‘cleansing’ either, and at the same time, I think there are people who try blame all their problems and pains on someone else. If that someone else can be ‘different’ but still a group of people, then, that kind of thing can happen. And it’s really scary that human beings can be so incredibly cruel to one another.
Oh wow, I love the fact that this gives three different perspectives like that. The psychology behind many of Hitler’s followers, especially those doing medical experiments, is really fascinating. We still see it in people today.
I agree that the psychology behind his followers is fascinating – and more than a little scary, to. And you’re right, we do still see the same kind of thinking in people today.
How thought-provoking, Lexxie. I particularly love your last sentence. I mean, isn’t that something we should all ascribe to? And shouldn’t we have been learning these sorts of lessons for quite some time? I am most fascinated by hearing about how an educated woman felt she was doing good under Hitler. I’m sure there were many who felt the same way and weren’t inherently ‘evil’. Anyway, I had Sky read your review as well…we’re thinking we might do a buddy read of it. Thanks for putting it on our radar. 🙂
Yeah, we should have been learning these sorts of lessons – but at the same time, I think we all also think we’re ‘better’ than that, that we wouldn’t do those kinds of things. The educated woman was very young, so in some ways, she was quite naïve, and she really didn’t feel like she was evil at all. I hope you’ll be able to buddy read Lilac Girls with Sky! I can’t wait to see what you think of it, Brandee! *BIG HUGS*