Dianne's Reviews > Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
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really liked it
bookshelves: best-of-2017

The best thing about this story is that it's based on real people and real events. From the main characters to the individual Ravensbruck doctors and prison guards to the inmates of the concentration camp, Hall Kelly has done her research and then some. I did my own research after reading this, including visiting Hall Kelly's website, and became engrossed in the backstory, especially what happened to some of the protagonists in the story. Just seeing some of these people's pictures gave me goosebumps.

The story is focused around 3 main characters during World War II - Kasia, a young Polish girl; Caroline, a New York socialite; and Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor who accepts a job at Ravensbruck, a "re-education center" for women (aka a concentration camp). Their narrations alternate and eventually come together at the end. While based on real people and real events, it is still a work of fiction with imagined dialogue and additional characters and events invented to dramatize or humanize the story. It mostly worked, but the weakest party of the story (for me) was Caroline's fictitious romance with Paul. It never felt real to me or particularly compelling against the backdrop of the other harrowing stories.

The most interesting character to me was Dr. Herta Oberheuser. I think Hall Kelly did a pretty good job of capturing her essence, but because this book spans so many years and so many lives, the characters felt a little thin. I wanted more depth, especially with Herta - I cannot get my head around her actions. Still - the thing here is the story. Not beautiful writing or complicated psychological analysis of the characters but a compelling piece of historical fiction that introduced me to "the rabbits." I knew about the medical experiments at concentration camps and the inhumanity, but I didn't know specifically about THESE women and their story. It's so important that we hear and feel these stories! "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana)

My maternal grandparents came to the U.S. from Poland in the early 1900's and my paternal grandparents are of German heritage, so perhaps that made this extra interesting to me.

A 3.5 for me, rounding up to a 4 for the research, passion and love that the author put into it.
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Reading Progress

October 12, 2015 – Shelved
October 12, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
January 15, 2017 – Started Reading
January 15, 2017 –
page 93
19.1%
January 16, 2017 –
page 209
42.92%
January 17, 2017 –
page 325
66.74%
January 20, 2017 – Finished Reading
January 21, 2017 – Shelved as: best-of-2017

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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message 1: by Dem (new)

Dem Great review and love the quote. Have a copy of this book and hope to get to it next month.


Dianne Thanks, Dem - I think you find it fascinating.


Angela M Dianne , this book was one that really moved me . Very nice review.


PorshaJo Great review Dianne! I'm looking forward to this one.


message 5: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen Nice review, Dianne. It was a solid read although still a disturbing one


message 6: by Candi (new) - added it

Candi Wonderful review, Diane. Hope to get to this one before too long :)


Karen Great review, Dianne! Like Angela, this was very moving to me also.


Marilyn C. Great review! I spent time researching this book after I was through with it as well. I love when a book can grab my attention like that.


Dianne Angela M wrote: "Dianne , this book was one that really moved me . Very nice review."

Thanks, Angela. Yes, moving and memorable.


Dianne PorshaJo wrote: "Great review Dianne! I'm looking forward to this one."

Thanks, PorshaJo! I'll look forward to your thoughts on this one.


Dianne Jen wrote: "Nice review, Dianne. It was a solid read although still a disturbing one"

Thanks, Jen. I am trying to build up the fortitude and courage to tackle Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women. This might be a good one for a buddy read, sounds like a pretty intense 700 pages.


Dianne Candi wrote: "Wonderful review, Diane. Hope to get to this one before too long :)"

Thanks, Candi - I think it will really resonate with you.


Dianne Karen wrote: "Great review, Dianne! Like Angela, this was very moving to me also."

Thanks, Karen. So agree!


Dianne Marilyn wrote: "Great review! I spent time researching this book after I was through with it as well. I love when a book can grab my attention like that."

Thanks, Marilyn. I agree! The best books are the ones that capture your imagination and send you off on other tangential journeys!


message 15: by Melissa (new)

Melissa I had no idea this was based on real people and events . . . that must have made it even more heart wrenching. I agree . . . it's important to hear these stories and not forget all of the people that suffered. Great review. :)


Dianne Melissa wrote: "I had no idea this was based on real people and events . . . that must have made it even more heart wrenching. I agree . . . it's important to hear these stories and not forget all of the people th..."

Thanks, Melissa. I was surprised as I researched the characters afterwards just how many of them were real people. The Ravensbruck doctors and officers, the wardresses, some of the camp inmates, Caroline Ferriday, Herta Oberheuser, etc. Hall Kelly did her homework.


message 17: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Excellent review, Dianne!!


Dianne Deanna wrote: "Excellent review, Dianne!!"

Thanks, Deanna!


Cheri Terrific review, Dianne, and I agree with you that the fact that this is based on real people makes it that much more important.


Cathrine ☯️ I agree Dianne but I rounded down.


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