Published in 2016, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly was among the first female/WWII/ historical fiction type books to become popular, extremely popular. Maybe the only one left who hadn’t read it yet, I finally gave it a try.
The story follows three young women of very different backgrounds: Herta – a female German doctor aspiring to become a surgeon, Caroline – a wealthy New York socialite, and Kasia – a young Polish woman devoted to her family and the boy she loves.
We are introduced to the three women just prior to the start of WWII, getting to know them and providing the motivation for why they each take the actions they do. Author Kelly does a wonderful job of bringing the women to life, realistic in their particular needs and insecurities.
The research done for this story is obvious. The majority of the characters were real people, major players in the atrocities occurring at Ravensbruck, (a female only concentration camp in Germany), both the monsters and victims.
I can’t say enough about the excellent writing, depth of research, and devotion to accuracy of the story. But the story itself, I found just ok. At 476 pages it was long for a historical fiction novel, and it felt long. I spent most of the book feeling that I was still reading background info, waiting for the gist of the story to begin. I also felt much of the story of Herta could have been left out. I think it would make an interesting story unto itself, but didnt feel that knowing so much about her personal life was necessary to this story.
Because of the incredible research I am giving the book 4 stars, but if this were a compete work of fiction I would likely only give 3 – some issues but worth reading.