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Lilac Girls

A Novel
Written by: Martha Hall Kelly
Length: 17 hrs and 30 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (71 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 42.34
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Publisher's Summary

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this powerful debut novel reveals an incredible story of love, redemption, and terrible 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 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 an ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems like 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 they strive and sacrifice to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of unsung women and their quests for love, happiness, and second chances. It is a story that will keep listeners bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final moments.

©2016 Martha Hall Kelly (P)2016 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"Rich with historical detail and riveting to the end, Lilac Girls weaves together the lives of three astonishing women into a story of extraordinary moral power, against the harrowing backdrop of a Europe in thrall to Nazi Germany. Martha Hall Kelly moves effortlessly across physical and ethical battlegrounds, across the trajectory of a doomed wartime romance, across the territory of the soul. I can't remember the last time I read a novel that moved me so deeply." (Beatriz Williams, New York Times best-selling author of A Hundred Summers and The Secret Life of Violet Grant)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Absolutely magnificent. Loved it.

An amazing journey into the events of that time. Excellent reading. I felt i knew each character personally.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • TMH
  • 2018-01-13

Love and Kindness are always relevant

Deeply moving, horrific, frightening, but awash with love, kindness, and bravery! What an amazing gift Martha Hall Kelly has in turning words into images. The milk maids in the field looking up at the silver bellied plane firing on them. I was there, I could see it!

War of course leaves utter destruction, broken hearts, and broken families in it's wake. Despite the extremities the characters found themselves in, we see the human ability to love, care, to put others before themselves, and to sacrifice, even to death.

Lilac Girls is a testament of the human spirit, of love, kindness, and generosity in the worst of conditions.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I really enjoyed this book

This book not only talks about the camps, but also the experimental surgeries carried out on people. It gives the stories of 3 women, including the story of one of the doctors who was performing the surgeries. I found it very interesting and horrifying how someone can justify these actions.

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Beautiful

Such a beautifully written story. The author created a great realistic connection with the characters for the readers.

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Beautiful

This book has had me transfixed. Beautifully written and captivating. Absolutely heartbreaking. It’s fascinating to have the Nazi doctor’s story in there as well. I’d highly recommend this book

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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One of the best books I ever read<br />

Loved it. Powerful and inspiring. Will recommend to as many people I can about this.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I loved this book

Heavy topic, but such a good story. I couldn’t stop listening this book engaged me so much!
The narrator was excellent. 5 stars #Audible1

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jen
  • 2018-09-13

Very good

well written and narrated... beautiful & painful story. Loved the authors manner of unfolding the story through the different characters. #Audible1

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Beautifully dark story

It is compelling and beautiful, but dark at times. I found myself listening every chance I got.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Joy Easton
  • 2016-05-18

The cover is a bit misleading, but...

This was a memorable book & the 3 stories were very interesting & well-written. Don't be tempted to read the author's note at the end of the book first. Spoilers! I'm glad the author included it. I wanted to know more about actual events. I'm inspired to read more about the "rabbits."

The book seemed to drag a few times, but that's probably because I wanted things to happen that didn't. The book is long, but I don't think it needed editing (& I'm a former proofreader/copy editor).

Each narrator was excellent! I would be surprised if anyone dislikes the narrators. Even when each does other accents, I didn't find it jarring or dissonant.

There are a few places where it's quite sad & grim. But that's part of the book's purpose; it's about the Holocaust, after all.

Overall, an interesting, moving book from a new author. I'll be watching for her next book!

122 of 127 people found this review helpful

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  • Holly
  • 2016-06-14

One of the best books I've ever heard!

LOVED this book! I couldn't stop listening. I didn't know until afterward that this story is based on real people experience which makes it even! more amazing. There was no time in this book when I wanted to put it down. All my friends have gotten the book because of my recommendation and they say the same thing. The different character narrators' voices were amazing and really makes the listener feel like you are right there with them. The woman who narrated the character Kasha was especially good. I have never heard a narrator capture the emotion of a scene like she can... simply WOW! Don't pass this book up.

59 of 61 people found this review helpful

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  • Kristi
  • 2017-06-15

Unknown History

What did you love best about Lilac Girls?

I am a retired history teacher and have read many books on WW2. I was not aware of this bit of WW2 history. Survivors of the concentration camps endured unspeakable horror, yet their determination to live at all costs gave them the soul to make it.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager who takes on the undeserved guilt of being Hitler's victim.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I really liked that each of the main characters were narrated by a different person. It made it sound like individual stories.

Who was the most memorable character of Lilac Girls and why?

the medical code is - First do no harm- I don't know if this in true in Hitler's Germany, but she struggles with sexism while denying her own prejudices.

Any additional comments?

The author combines just enough fiction with historical facts to provide depth to the story. I really liked the author's notes about the real "Rabbits."

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • Shelley
  • 2016-05-07

Superb!

I hesitated at first about taking on another historical novel set amidst World War II - but rest assured this is a story you have not heard - about people you may have heard about and events that might sound a bit familiar. But that is where familiarity ends. The extraordinary attention to detail, the depth of the characters, and the narrative told from the points of view of three different but interlinked characters make for superb reading (or listening).

This is a novel about so much more than the many Nazi atrocities we know about - it's about being willing to love and be loved, learning that we cannot control events but must live them, it's about the complications borne of buried trauma, and ultimately about facing pain in order to grab hold of one's life - and live with gusto - no matter the cost. Because it's worth it.

68 of 72 people found this review helpful

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  • Elice Lehmann
  • SAN ANTONIO, TX, US
  • 2016-09-27

Absolutely wonderful

I dont think that I was quite expecting this story to move me so profoundly. I actually cried at the end, tears of sorrow for the horrible experiences that these women endured. I definitely want to learn more of this time period and intend to do more reading, if my heart can handle it. The part I liked best was how the author showed some insight into how someone may have been caught up in aiding in this evil. Very well written!

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • mrsgrz
  • CA
  • 2016-04-30

Amazing story! Based on true life events

Really well researched story of 3 some with different roles in the events of WW2. Incredible characters! Wonderful narration. Really liked how each character had a different narrator. Engrossing listen

38 of 41 people found this review helpful

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  • Lynn
  • 2017-05-30

Amazing, tear jerking, and beyond painful

This book was powerful and well worth the read (listen). There were moments of doubt as the story is hard at times, but the author continues to pull you along, despite the excruciating story line. If you have any interest in World War II you will certainly appreciate this book.

My personal thoughts: the very beginning was a little rough for me. It was a hard first chapter, but once I made it through that chapter it was smooth sailing from there. There were times I had to go back in the book to catch details I had obviously missed, I'd recommend being able to fully concentrate on each word. We are now in a world that we can not go back and get first hand stories of this time and I cannot express enough appreciation to this author who gave this reader the next best thing.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Amy Ginger
  • 2016-05-25

Powerful reading...

Nothing I disliked, but some parts were very hard to hear... From an emotional standpoint. Heartbreaking to think what we have done to each other, human to human, in our past and I am sure in our future. Loved all the characters, but most especially, Kasha. Wonderful book!

35 of 38 people found this review helpful

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  • MissSusie66
  • 2016-05-04

Highly recommend the audio!

This book is fabulous and I highly recommend the audio version to truly bring these women to life!

I have read a lot of books on concentration camps and have even visited a few but this was a learning experience for me I had never heard of the Ravensbruck Rabbits, you hear so much about Mengele’s experiments on twins but I never knew about the experiments these women went through in Ravenbruck.

As with any book on concentration camps this one is heartbreaking; however there is so much hope in this book because a large part of the book is about the survivors and the after effects that there is hope and hope’s name is Caroline Ferriday. She truly saved these women years of pain by getting them to the US and getting them surgery to fix the atrocious things that were done to them.

I enjoyed the different storylines told by Caroline, Kasia one of the survivors and Herta one of the doctors at the camp which was an interesting storyline because you just couldn’t like her no matter if she felt bad for what she was doing or not. I also enjoyed the addition of Kasia’s sister Suzanna (sp audio) who is a doctor and also a survivor of Ravenbruck.

CAROLINE, read by Cassandra Campbell…KASIA, read by Kathleen Gati….HERTA, read by Kathrin Kana the narration on this book was so fantastic I can’t even come up with enough words to tell you to listen to the audio version of this book. These 3 narrators brought these women to life for me and I believe enhanced my enjoyment of this book.

I could go on and on about this book and I think this will be in my top books of the year this year. So I’ll just say if you enjoy historical fiction or WWII fiction you need to read this book!

5 Stars

56 of 63 people found this review helpful

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  • Judith L. Roeder
  • 2016-04-30

Harrowing but beautiful

This story which brought to light the harrowing things that happened to the polish prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp. It's a story of love, loss , and how evil cannot win. Beautifully narrated and wonderfully told, this story will be in my heart forever.

38 of 43 people found this review helpful

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  • toto
  • 2017-05-19

Excellent

I absolutely loved this novel! It is incredibly well written. One of the Best books I've ever read/listened to ( and I've read quite a lot). It is specially interesting that many of the characters in the book are based on true people. A must-read!