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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

Critic reviews

"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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Best book I have ever read.

This book is unputdownable. It is based on facts. The author really has a great insight into the lives of prisoners in the different camps. Overall a brilliant story, well told.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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could have been great

This could have been a brilliant book but for me Caroline's narrations let it down. I found her story dull and her character selfish and boring.
Especailly compared to the other two - Herta and Kasia- who's stories were compelling and in depth.
The performance of the book can not be faulted. The German and Polish accents were terrific and I think I definitely benefited from listening to it rather than reading it myself.

Worth the read.

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moving

I loved each of the characters. Moving story that had me engrossed straight away. would recommend.

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Amazing

💕💕💕
This book was amazing and it captured all the historical things and the heart of the story the real lilac girls would be honoured with such an amazing book

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Powerful

This was a hard read and something that every person should have as required reading. The story makes harrowing topics accessible and the trials these women suffered and overcame are not sugar coated. The bravery in the face of unimaginable atrocities has shaken me to the core. I read this with tears in my eyes and can honestly say I admire the Ravensbruck prisoners and their courage.

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  • Ally
  • Scotland, UK
  • 12-02-18

An Ambitious Story Well Told

Three women with very different lives come together in this moving tale of suffering and selflessness in World War II. The writer does a very good job with this difficult brief. Some aspects of the story surprise as they are real characters and events not well known in the present day.

The performances bring the story vividly to life but I was mildly irritated by the patronising voice of Carolyn Ferriday, which somewhat detracts from her character, in my opinion. Despite this, a very enjoyable book.

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Great listen

Really enjoyed this book, loved the true historical aspect runing through the storey, sorry when it finished!!

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A superb novel whose title belies its depth

This will keep you engrossed. Poignant. Allowing the reader to feel what it was like for women and children sent to the camps.

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It was a privilege....

It waa a privilege, albeit a painful one, to listen to the story of these women. It is beautifully written and performed and left me wanting to find out more and to remember, always. I'm going to plant some Lilac.

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Incredible story!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, especially if they are interested in war stories.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Lilac Girls?

The sheer scope of the story, it follows three women from the beginning of WW2 to years later.

Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No but I would as the different voices blended so well.

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Profile Image for Joy Easton
  • Joy Easton
  • 18-05-16

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!

82 of 85 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Kristi
  • Kristi
  • 15-06-17

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."

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Holly
  • Holly
  • 14-06-16

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.

39 of 41 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Kaitrin Moore
  • Kaitrin Moore
  • 07-05-16

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.

54 of 58 people found this review helpful

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  • mrsgrz
  • 30-04-16

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

36 of 39 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Amy Ginger
  • Amy Ginger
  • 25-05-16

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!

32 of 35 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Bernard
  • Bernard
  • 23-06-17

Holocaust Revisited

What disappointed you about Lilac Girls?

I found the middle section dragged and that the sudden change in the German doctor's character was not sufficiently supported. She went from a woman struggling in an unfair system, uncertain about her country's policies, to a full-fledged Nazi with very little transition. I found this jarring and implausible.

What could Martha Hall Kelly have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

It would have been better if she had shortened the middle section that occurred during the war. For me what is of most interest is the war's aftermath rather than additional detail about the medical experimentation in the concentration camps.

Which scene was your favorite?

I thought the French gala in the United States where the French actor went off script was quite entertaining and funny.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Elice Lehmann
  • Elice Lehmann
  • 27-09-16

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!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for MissSusie66
  • MissSusie66
  • 04-05-16

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

51 of 58 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Judith L. Roeder
  • Judith L. Roeder
  • 30-04-16

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.

36 of 41 people found this review helpful