This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed!
Book Number: 17
Martha Hall Kelly
This is a well researched, well-written story told from the perspective of three women.
Socialite and former actress, Caroline volunteers at the French consulate in New York City during World War 2.
Kasia, a Polish teenager becomes involved in the underground resistance and, along with her sister and mother, is sent to Ravensbruck, the Nazi concentration camp for women.
Herta, a German doctor struggling for acceptance as a surgeon, takes a job in Ravensbruck and finds herself ensnared in the Nazi system.
The characters in this story (based on actual events) are well drawn. I found myself admiring Caroline’s desire to help the French people and especially her later efforts to help Kasia and other women who had been subjected to experimental medical procedures at the camp. Through Caroline, we are introduced to upper-class society during the era. Her snarky friends provide humorous relief with their opinions about some of the wealthy people (again, actual people whose names you will recognize.) I found her relationship with Paul, an actor who seems to want it all, as frustrating to me as it possibly was to her.
I admired Kasia’s courageousness and ingenuity and related to her self-doubts. Once free from the concentration camp, Kasia is unable to give up the past and move on with her life. She wants things to be the way they were before the war, but that cannot happen. Kasia carries both physical and mental scars that will not heal.
Herta is an especially intriguing character. I sympathized with her early struggles but had difficulty understanding how she could later justify the horrific actions she takes. To the end, she remains unmoved.
The details in this story are heart-rending and very complete. Martha Hall Kelly is masterful at conveying ideas and pictures without belaboring the point. Sometimes a simple sentence of hers evokes an entire scene and emotion.
Lilac Girls is intriguing, sometimes harrowing, always interesting, and a story that stays with you.