Hello and Happy New Year!
I cannot believe that it is already the 5th of January: I missed all opportunities to blog about my decade in review, 2020 goals, my last few books read, and so on. I feel like once Winter vacation drew near, I drew my last breath of motivation.
Nevertheless, it is a new day, and I am going to attempt to catch up. It’s always easiest to bounce back from a writing hiatus with a book review, so here we are: My very tardy recap of the OSS Book Brigade’s December pick, “Lilac Girls,” by Martha Hall Kelly.
I was very excited to read this book after quickly devouring “Tattooist of Auschwitz” in October. I wanted to peel back the layers of common themes and contrasting points of view, as both novels were set in World War II.
I must say that I really enjoyed this book and was surprised by how different it was from “Tattooist.” I won’t delve into specific differences in case readers have not yet read the former title but I absolutely love how “Lilac Girls” was constructed. Caroline, Kasia, and Herta were the three main characters of the story and each female was able to paint a picture of their perspective in the war, as they maintained their own chapters. Caroline was a New York socialite aiding in the war as a long-distance advocate and volunteer, Kasia was a Polish captive serving time in Ravensbruck, a notorious concentration camp for woman, after being caught as a collaborator in the resistance movement, and Herta was a doctor at Ravensbruck, determined to make the most of her education in the medical sector while apprehensive about her job description in the camp.
The book had a pulse, a constant magnification of character happenings and a continued withdrawal of the storylines to provide snapshots of the world at war. I absolutely loved that- It helped provide context to what life was like in the United States, in Germany, and in captured territories. In 465 pages, the author managed to blend three completely different stories together, evoke emotions associated with good and evil people versus situations, shed light on little known aspects of the war, and maintain the integrity of real lives and the missions that compelled each character to take action. I cannot believe that this is Martha Hall Kelly’s first novel- Her eloquent writing was the cherry on top of a well-researched and crafted story.
The only thing that threw me off a bit was the title, if I am being honest. I feel like Caroline’s lilacs were not powerful enough, in terms of symbolism, to warrant it being the title of the piece. I am interested in hearing other reader’s thoughts, but when I first picked up the book, noticed the title and the photo, I was expecting a climax of all three characters banding together in some way. I kept waiting for it. Was anyone else doing the same?
Let me know in the comments below!
Final Score: 4 After reading “The Tattooist Of Auschwitz” in October, I was moved by the story of survival but thought that the descriptions surrounding the backdrop of the war and concentration camp were light. While no one particularly wants to read about the gruesome and harrowing side effects of combat, I was really only able to paint a one-dimensional picture of the storyline. With “Lilac Girls,” the author covered a wide range of emotions, images, historical events, snapshots of different characters and geographical areas… I wasn’t left needing more but felt moved by the piece, satisfied with the breadth and depth of the historical context and character development. To top it all off, Martha Hall Kelly is a beautiful writer which made this an especially captivating read. Well done.
BEST FOR: Historical fiction book lovers. “Lilac Girls” is inspired by the real events of World War II and, I think, one of the best of its kind.
NOT GOOD FOR: Those looking for a “swift” read. This book is not exactly “an effortless page turner”- My book club chose this as our December pick and we had to move our discussion date twice because of the time it took to get to the end. Which- is not a bad thing in this case… For me, I wanted to take my time in getting to know the characters, immersing myself in the historical elements of the book, and basking in the author’s sophisticated prose.
IF THIS BOOK/ AUTHOR WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STEREOTYPE/ SUPERLATIVE: These girls would all be put up for “Most Unforgettable.” I know for sure, that the stories of Caroline, Herta, and Kasia will stay with me.
** Want to see what I’m reading next? Find me on GoodReads and join the 2020 challenge with me! https://www.goodreads.com/addingpunctuation **