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Lilac Girls

(Lilac Girls #1)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  251,795 ratings  ·  20,044 reviews
Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.
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
Hardcover, 487 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Ballantine Books
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Popular Answered Questions
Martha Kelly Thank you for your question...the first one!
Caroline Ferriday was a real person and Kasia is a character based on Nina Ivanska, one of the "rabbits" o…more
Thank you for your question...the first one!
Caroline Ferriday was a real person and Kasia is a character based on Nina Ivanska, one of the "rabbits" of Ravensbruck, who helped smuggle out the news of their operations to the world. I think they are both heroines in Lilac Girls.(less)
Martha Kelly Thanks for your question, Andrea. I loved Sarah's book, but the inspiration for Lilac Girls came when I visited Caroline Ferriday's house in Bethlehem…moreThanks for your question, Andrea. I loved Sarah's book, but the inspiration for Lilac Girls came when I visited Caroline Ferriday's house in Bethlehem, CT. over 12 years ago. I had seen Caroline's house featured in an article about her lilacs in Victoria Magazine, went up for a tour and couldn't get the photo of the Ravensbruck "rabbits" on her desk out of my head. You can find the whole story (including the photo I saw that day) at if you want to know more!(less)

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Average rating 4.27  · 
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Angela M
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No matter how many books I read about the atrocities of the holocaust, the death camps , the concentration camps, I always feel that each of the stories must be told so it is not forgotten and no matter how difficult these stories are to read , we have to read them. In this novel the story of what happened at Ravensbruck, the concentration camp , infamous for the horrific medical experimentation on young Polish women is told from the perspectives of three women. It spans two decades from 1939 wh ...more
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: wwii
This story is about three different women, two of whom were real-life characters according to the author's notes, the third (a prisoner at the all female prison camp Ravensbrück). Caroline Ferriday is the first narrator, Kasia (a young Polish girl) and finally the notorious Herta Oberheuser (don't read up on her experiments at meal time). The setting is mainly during the years of WWII, but the later third or so take place some years afterward.

Typically such a subject matter would have me gripped
Jessica Jeffers
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
I'm so very clearly in the minority here, and I don't really feel like drawing the ire of the thousands of people who seem to have enjoyed this book so just let me say that the story was fine but I thought the writing was weak. The characters weren't developed and Kelly's use of the three-intertwined-narratives technique (Side note: I am sick to death of that technique) struck me as clumsy and ineffective.

Elyse  Walters
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, europe
Ravensbruck was Hitler's only major concentration camp exclusively for women.
The story is centered around three women....each from 3 different countries: Poland, Germany, and, America. ---( before- during - and after World War II) ---all based on the lives of real women in history. There are actually several plots ... not sure any of them are minor. The storytelling is disturbing, gripping and written veraciously.

Caroline Ferriday's was a wealthy American woman who made it her life's work to he
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Emotional, Powerful, Brutal

This book will take your breath away.. it certainly stole mine. Some stories are unforgettable, no doubt that this one is among them. However, to leave it at that, is not adequate. No. This is different. Not only did I appreciate this novel, but it changed me. It shook me to the core and rocked the very foundation on which I stand.

If you haven't yet read this, you must. It is imperative that we never forget the extraordinary suffering and enormous loss that took p
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lilac Girls (Lilac Girls #1) by Martha Hall Kelly (Author), Cassandra Campbell (Narrator), Kathleen Gati (Narrator), Kathrin Kana (Narrator)

This story is told from the viewpoint of three women. One of the women was the real life former actress, Caroline Woolsey Ferriday, an American philanthropist known for her efforts during World War II and throughout the rest of her life. While this story deals mostly with her work to help women who survived Nazi medical experiments at the Ravensbrück concent
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
No matter how many holocaust stories I read, I still find them disturbing, shocking and heart wrenching. Surviving such a devastating experience brings with it a lifetime of horrors. For no one truly forgets and nor should we.

3 women from 3 different geographies as WWII erupts - Each doing what they can towards the war effort.
Caroline in NYC. Putting care packages together for orphaned children. Going one step further and helping rebuild the country. Falling in love with a foreigner who is forc
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book earlier in the day, and I've been pondering what to write for "my review" and I cannot put into words how much this book impacted me. It's books like this that make me appreciate how fortunate I am, for I know with great certainty that I could be nowhere as resilient. FANTASTIC BOOK!!! ...more
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I tend to gravitate to books on WWII and the holocaust, but I have never read a book about Ravensbrück, the Nazi concentration camp for women. I had never heard of the 'rabbits'. I was shocked by this book, not expecting it to be as good as it was.

The Lilac Girls tells the story of three *very* different women, whose lives eventually intersect. Caroline Ferriday, a socialite and former actress works for the French Consulate in NYC and she works tirelessly for children who have been impacted or d
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever heard of the “Rabbit Girls?” I would imagine most reading this review, have not. Neither had I. Unfortunately they are forgotten women of WWII.

This storyline is based on a true story. Two of the three women we follow beginning in the year 1939 are real people, and their names have not been changed. The other is loosely based on a woman who was an actual “Rabbit Girl.” All three women’s lives intersect.

Caroline, an American actress with ancestral ties to France, who works in th
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After all the books I've read about the horrors surronding WWII it still amazes me how awful humans can be to each other. Lilac Girls is one of those novels that brings to light a little known atrocity... the experimentation on women in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. The writing is so raw that at times I wasn't sure I'd be able to get through it. It saddens me so much to think that any of the victims of these atrocities would carry guilt feeling any it was their fault. I appreciate the dedicati ...more
Ravensbrück. The first time I heard the name as a child, I pictured an older grand mansion needing care, having seen better days, like the movie 1946 film, Dragonwyck, a movie made before my time, but one I have to which I have a connection, of sorts.

”The lawn grew lush and green, and flowers rose up along the base of the building. To the left, high on a ridge overlooking the camp, sat four leader houses built in Heimatschutzstil, homeland-preserving style, with natural stone columns and half-t
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was a difficult book to read and review. At one point early on in this novel I almost put it aside. The atrocities that it outlines in great, graphic detail, were almost too much for me. Then, curious about the author, I went on her website where she describes how she came to write this novel. It was here that I discovered that the main characters in the book are based on the lives of real people. Reading about a
Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
This book, based upon a true story, is about three women during World War 2.

Caroline Ferriday is a single New York socialite who does volunteer work for the French Consulate aiding orphans. Compassionate about her work, twenty-something Caroline wants to do something meaningful with her life. We follow her life through WW2 and how her she ultimately ends up helping raise money to rehabilitate women whose lives were severely impacted at Ravensbruck . Kasia Kuzmerick is a 17 year old, living in Po
Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
Lilac Girls is a quietly powerful book set in the second World War and based on a true story.

It is well narrated by three different narrators, one for each POV.

The story is told through the eyes of Caroline Ferraday, New York Socialite; Kasia Kuzmerick , a young Polish woman; and Herta Oberheuser a young German Doctor, whose lives are set on a collusion course.

In my eyes, this is a 'must read' book. And when you do, don't skip the author's note at the end on how the book came to be written. fo
Justin Tate
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A dynamite blend of fact, fiction and thematic storytelling.

The pages breeze by and it isn't clear just how carefully crafted it is until the author's note at the end, where she explains all the real world significance. I'm always amazed by authors who can effortlessly weave in history without being mundane. Historical fiction writers take note! This is a text to study.

If I were to critique anything, I'd say it did feel overlong in places and the romantic interests never quite felt authentic. Ve
Dana Ilie
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookclub
Martha Hall Kelly’s prose and style are both just beautiful. It’s a style that both stands separate from the plot and also enlightens and enhances it. I often paused to admire a particular phrase or a gorgeous description or a well expressed emotion. This is the type of language that I just want to read slowly to soak up.
This novel was the three perspectives. I love novels that give us the narrative inside the heads of multiple narrators. Kelly does this seamlessly and beautifully. She creates
Sheyla ✎
What an interesting story!

Caroline Ferriday was a real person. A devoted philanthropist who felt compelled to help others. One of the most important achievements of her life was to help with the ones called "Rabbits".

The Rabbits were the Polish women who were taken into the largest all-female concentration camp in Ravensbrück and who many surgical procedures were performed against their will. Many different surgeries were done including sterilization and introducing different materials like dirt
Holly  B
A powerful historical World War II novel based on real people and this one has been seared into my memory...

The author did extensive research to bring this story to life. Caroline Ferriday and Herta Oberheuser were real people. The two sisters- Kasia and Zuzanna were based on research of 74 "Polish survivors" of Hitler's Ravensbruck women only concentration camp.  These survivors were known as "rabbits" because of the horrendous experimental operations that were performed on them.

The author'
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonetta by: Angela M
This is a fictional story of the real-life women who were subjected to medical experiments at Hitler's Ravensbrüch concentration camp, the only one exclusively for women. The story is told from three narratives: Caroline Ferriday, a New York debutant and socialite who worked tirelessly on behalf of French orphans before and at the war's outbreak; Kasia Kuzmerick, a young Polish woman who was subjected to these experiments at Ravensbrüch; and Herta Oberheuser, one of the camp doctors (the only fe ...more
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. The basis for this book is interesting, based as it is on two real individuals and a composite for the third. At the beginning, you wonder how the three story lines will become entwined. It doesn't take long for the first two to merge, as the Polish girl finds herself at Ravensbruck and the German woman takes work as a doctor there.

The weakness in the book is the characters themselves, especially Herta, the German. I would have liked to seen it fleshed out more how she reconciled her
Ahmad Sharabiani
Lilac Girls (Lilac Girls #1), Martha Hall Kelly

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine. 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 c
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
No matter how much you read about that difficult time, WWII novels never fail to give you a piece of information that you missed, a truth that you failed to discover, a knowledge that will change, at least a little, the way you see the world. And that's what I love about these stories. World War II horrors are endless, and a book that succeeded to show me new pieces of history doesn't deserve less than 4 stars.

Lilac Girls is based on a true story who is told from the perspective of three

Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating read, not quite perfect,so four rather than five stars, but still a book I would recommend everyone to read.
I found out so much more than I already knew about World War 11, particularly as to what happened in Poland during and after the war. I also found it necessary after reading the book to research a bit more in order to fully understand it all.
My only reservation was that I never really felt attached to any of the characters. I was duly shocked by all they had to endur
Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
Excellent book! 5 stars! One of my favourite books of 2016!! Told from three characters' viewpoints, I was completely enthralled in each storyline. Very disturbing and horrific subject matter when reading about what went on at the concentration camp - hard to read at times and hard to believe this book is based on true events. Very well written - I was hooked from the first page to the very last page in the Author's Note. It was interesting to read about the author's journey through researching ...more
Apr 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I joke with my book friends, that all historical fiction just makes me cry- cause the history itself is just so sad. 💔 This, of course, is sad as well. 😢 Told from three different POV- a well off socialite in the US, a Polish Nazi camp prisoner and a Nazi doctor working in a concentration camp. All of them are impacted the war, but their experiences were all so drastically different. I’d suggest tissues for this read.
Marilyn C.
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
Do not let the idyllic cover of this book fool you; three girls, arm in arm, having a leisurely stroll together. This book is about Ravensbruck, a women's concentration camp located in northern Germany, during World War II. Over 130,000 women went through this camp with the majority never leaving: dying from disease, starvation or execution. These women were also subjected to grotesque experiments that would leave them disfigured, sterilized or dead. They would become known as the Ravensbruck ra ...more
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
Recommended to Debbie by: My Slave Lake camping/reading friend!
So many books have been written about WWII/the Holocaust/Hitler's concentration camps, and rightly so, but when an acquaintance highly recommended that I read LILAC GIRLS, I assumed that it would be another well-written account based on these topics. It IS well-written, but I was astonished to learn that this heartfelt story is based on real-life people and events that I had never heard of before! The book focuses on three women whose lives intertwine because of the horrific events that occurred ...more
Jennifer Blankfein
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Follow me on Book Nation by Jen for all my reviews and recommendations.
If you missed the release of Lilac Girls, now is the time to buy the paperback. It is historical fiction based on true and harrowing events during World War II. For me, the Holocaust has always been mostly about how the Jews were prosecuted; a devastating time in our history across the world. But of course the Jewish people were not the only ones who were affected. Author Martha Hall Kelly
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Erin by: DeB
Shelves: books-i-own, series
A compelling historical fiction that sheds light on the horrific human experiments at Ravensbruck concentration camp during World War II and the American socialite that fought for the story to be heard. Split into three parts and told through the eyes of three different women, Lilac Girls covers the period between 1939-1959 and takes readers from Germany to Poland, and New York City and Paris.

Lilac Girls shines a light on the brutality of war and the different forms of political resistance
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Martha grew up in Massachusetts and now splits her time between Connecticut and New York City. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years and raised three splendid children, while researching and writing Lilac Girls, her first novel. She has loved writing the other two books about Caroline's family, Lost Roses, which features Caroline's mother during WWI and Sunflower Sisters, a Civil ...more

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