Lilac Girls: A Novel by Martha Hall KellyLilac Girls: A Novel by Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac Girls: A Novel

byMartha Hall Kelly

Paperback | February 28, 2017

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For readers of The Nightingale and Sarah’s Key, inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this remarkable debut novel reveals the power of unsung women to change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances.

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 the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems 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 Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

USA Today “New and Noteworthy” Book • LibraryReads Top Ten Pick

“Harrowing . . . Lilac illuminates.”People

“A compelling, page-turning narrative . . . Lilac Girls falls squarely into the groundbreaking category of fiction that re-examines history from a fresh, female point of view. It’s smart, thoughtful and also just an old-fashioned good read.”Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“A powerful story for readers everywhere . . . Martha Hall Kelly has brought readers a firsthand glimpse into one of history’s most frightening memories. A novel that brings to life what these women and many others suffered. . . . I was moved to tears.”San Francisco Book Review

“Extremely moving and memorable . . . This impressive debut should appeal strongly to historical fiction readers and to book clubs that adored Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.”Library Journal (starred review)

“[A] compelling first novel . . . This is a page-turner demonstrating the tests and triumphs civilians faced during war, complemented by Kelly’s vivid depiction of history and excellent characters.”Publishers Weekly

“Kelly vividly re-creates the world of Ravensbrück.”Kirkus Reviews

“Inspired by actual events and real people, Martha Hall Kelly has woven together the stories of three women during World War II that reveal the bravery, cowardice, and cruelty of those days. This is a part of history—women’s history—that should never be forgotten.”—Lisa See, New York Times bestselling author of China Dolls

“Profound, unsettling, and thoroughly . . . the best book I’ve read all year.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Martha Hall Kelly is a native New Englander now living in Atlanta, Georgia, where she’s writing the prequel to Lilac Girls. This is her first novel.
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Title:Lilac Girls: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:512 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 1.1 inPublished:February 28, 2017Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1101883081

ISBN - 13:9781101883082

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful story Truly beautiful story of perseverance and the strength of the human connection. Heavy at times but well worth the read. I strongly recommend reading the authors note after the last chapter to truly appreciate the research the author put into making the book historically correct. She did an amazing job.
Date published: 2019-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read Love a good historical fiction novel about WWII with female heroines. This was just that. Not quite up to "The Alice Network" and "The Nightingale", but still a great read.
Date published: 2018-07-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great story Wonderful story and love that it is based on true events. Story is based on Caroline Ferriday an american actress / activist who did amazing things to help victims (mainly women and children) during WW2. At the same time it focuses mainly on one family whereby the mother and two Polish sisters were brought to the concentration camps and details out their harrowing experiences while there.
Date published: 2018-06-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great story The book was recommended to me by my daughter.Took a few chapters to get into the story ,but once I did I could not put it down.The story of the "Rabbits" was new to me and gave me added insight to the concentration camps.
Date published: 2018-06-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I thought it would be better I think I was in the minority with this one. I only gave it 3 stars instead of 2 because I enjoyed the ending more than the beginning. I usually enjoy a book about the Holocaust or World War II but this one was hard to get into. I kept losing focus with Caroline's story because I had no idea how her story related to the other two women. By the middle of the book I realized parts read more like an autobiography rather than fiction. Characters could have been developed more. I felt like when the author did show more of her characters, the chapter ended. Herta was an awful person but she still had feelings and these were rarely shown. Kasia went through a lot and even when she had the chance to express her emotions she didn't. Not even to the reader. For what these two women went through, there should have been more depth to them for such an interesting story. I applaud the author for doing so much research for this book. I feel like the story of the Rabbits isn't well known and I'm glad she brought some attention to what happened to these women.
Date published: 2018-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from FANTASTIC! We read this book in our local book club. I had a hard time getting into it at first but then I switched to an audio version. Wow! It was fantastic! I could not stop listening to it until the book was finished. Two characters in the book are about actual women during WW II. The storyline is about three women's perspectives during the war. One is an American who is trying her best to help women who were in the camps, another is about a Polish woman in a concentration camp and the third is about a German woman doctor performing experimental treatments on the women in the camp. All our book club members loved it!
Date published: 2018-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Story The detail in this book really gives you a chance to realize what it must have been like for the women involved in the Ravensbruck concentration camp and the story of the women who survived. Martha Hall Kelly was able to find so much information and research on so many of these characters and places that it really brings the book to life.
Date published: 2018-04-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Book club pick We are reading this for our next book club. It is really good - although due to some content, it is also difficult to read. The horrors of WW2 are written about so vividly, I find myself having to take breaks. The story does just wrap itself around you though and before you know it you have become so invested in the characters' lives.
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved What a wonderful book set thru out a horrible time in history. highly recommend.
Date published: 2018-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Based on a true story The book is based on a true story. The book was very well researched, the plot was put together on actual happenings that took place at Ravensbruck, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women and the experiments that were done on the women.
Date published: 2018-02-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I really enjoyed this book I really enjoyed this WWII book. It was well researched and well written. You really got to know all of the characters.
Date published: 2018-02-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was mediocre The research that went into this book, and the historical backdrop, were thorough and fascinating. Unfortunately, the dialogue was stilted, the characters were two-dimensional, the writing was awkward and overdramatic. It felt very mediocre, especially for such a heavy topic. I could tell that the author respect the history of the setting that she chose, but it read very much like a soap opera (especially when the narrator was Caroline) and getting to the end of the story felt, unfortunately, like a chore.
Date published: 2018-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED! I would highly recommend this book! An interesting and inspiring read about a little-known group of resilient women! Strong female characters and the multiple perspectives kept it moving quickly. Couldn't put it down!
Date published: 2018-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Book I loved this book! Great writing and the history was so interesting! I loved this book
Date published: 2017-12-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from based on truth... While this was based on the true Ravensbruck Rabbits it did lean heavily on giving props to an American woman who rallied in getting aid for them later on. These "rabbits" were the real heroes. They persisted. They survived. They knew of the raw and evil side of humanity.
Date published: 2017-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW I wish I could give this one more than 5 stars. If you like The Nightingale, you will like this one. It was interesting to learn after I had ready the book that 2 of the characters actually existed. I was completely invested in this book during the read and was horrified and amazed at the story...
Date published: 2017-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful and creative This is an interesting blend of true stories and historical fiction. A creative approach that I really enjoyed. Strong female characters, unique perspectives. I would definitely recommend this
Date published: 2017-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A gem If you read and liked " The Nightingale", do yourself a favour and pick the book up. It was so powerful.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lilac Girls I loved this book - I loved the multiple perspectives and seeing how they all tied together. Loved getting this view of this time in history from a female point of view.
Date published: 2017-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful One of my favorite books I've read this year. The author has done a great deal of research. Highly recommend!
Date published: 2017-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful This is an amazing novel. I love the multiple perspectives and the writing is beautiful.
Date published: 2017-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Perspectives I loved how this book really showed the perspectives from three very different girls during the war. It's based on a true story and I felt like I actually learned a lot about the war from reading this. Easily connect to the characters and understand the plot. Loved it, highly recommended!
Date published: 2017-07-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wonderfully written Such a wonderful novel, it had me hooked from the first page.
Date published: 2017-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from well written and informative Really liked this book although it is difficult to read at times. Hard to believe how such inhumanity but feel it is something we should always remember. The book is very well written and flows beautifully.
Date published: 2017-05-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Absolutely loved it Inspired by true events, Lilac Girls tells the intertwining stories of three very different WWII heroines. It was interesting to read from the perspective of Herta, a concentration camp doctor. Although her experiments were infuriating and inhumane, the writing showed readers the cruel truth of what went on in a women's only reeducation camp. Kasia, the fiery Pole and Caroline, the hopeless romantic shared tales of hope and heartbreak. I very much enjoyed this novel and its wide-ranging perspectives!
Date published: 2017-05-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Read Interesting book with lovely characters that show increbile strength and courtage.
Date published: 2017-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable It's a beautiful story, I had a hard time putting it down. Well worth the read!
Date published: 2017-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this book Well researched history of women who were imprisoned at Ravesnbruck during WWII and an American woman who helped them after the war.The characters are brought to life, we live with them through sorrow and joy. This book is a must read!
Date published: 2017-05-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love it A must read, thoroughly enjoyed the story. Very Moving.
Date published: 2017-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing book Beautifully written and so captivating. I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a great read! You won't be able to put it down.
Date published: 2017-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful! Really loved this book! The characters, the plotline, the dialogue. The writing was amazing and intriguing and complex. I loved the unique envrionment. Highly recommend!
Date published: 2017-03-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well done! One of my favourites this year.
Date published: 2017-03-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Read! Really enjoyed the story...couldn't put the book down.
Date published: 2017-03-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful Moving Story 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. I liked that it was based on real people and real stories. Very haunting, powerful and deeply moving.
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This novel probably deserves about 4.5 stars, but definitely more than 4. The novel follows three WWII-era women in very different situations whose stories eventually collide. Caroline is a spinster New York socialite whose family fortune has dwindled since her father's early death. She works tirelessly for French orphans and eventually the victims of the Ravensbruck medical experiments. Kasia begins as a teen (we see her through to her mid-thirties), sent as a political prisoner to Ravensbruck for aiding the Polish resistance. Her sister, mother, and sweetheart's sister are also sent there as a result of her actions. Herta, who is German, is also the only female doctor working at Ravensbruck. Her duties include lethal injection, sterilization of prisoners, and medical experiments. This novel is a fictionalized account of real events (obviously) but also of real people. Caroline and Herta did exist, and Kasia and her sister were based on real sisters from Ravensbruck. Kelly's character development is one of the best I've seen in quite some time. SOME SPOILERS BEGIN HERE. Caroline begins, in many ways, as her own archetype. She's wealthy and privileged enough that she can afford to "work" for free, donating her time to every cause under the sun while worrying almost obsessively about what "her set" thinks of her, name-dropping Vanderbilts and Roosevelts and Kennedys. But we learn that there's more to her than meets the eye. And likely more to her than she even knew. By the end of the war, she shares what little food she has with an emaciated elderly woman, opens her home and heart to Kasia and her sister for nearly a year, and dedicates decades of her life to attempting to right some of the many wrongs of the war. Kasia begins as a girl of 16, over-confident, often petulant, sometimes petty. When her over-confidence has devastating effects for those around her, her confidence is shattered, but her petulance and pettiness grow (no judgment! Given the unimaginable atrocities she suffers, this is absolutely understandable!). At Ravensbruck, these characteristics appear to sustain her, giving her the strength to keep herself and her sister alive. She even manages to send coded messages to the allied forces by way of her father! When she and her sister finally leave Ravensbruck, her petulance and pettiness follow her, accompanied by rage. She spends the better part of the next ten years unable to let go of her past. But between her sister's unfailing gentleness, Caroline's pushing, and Marthe's persistence, she finally finds a way to make peace with herself and her tormentors, realizing that obsessing over the past is the surest way of losing your future. Kelly's portrayal of Herta is the most nuanced of all. Unlike Caroline and Kasia, Herta experiences what amounts to negative character growth. She begins as a young woman just finishing up medical school. Her family is not in absolute poverty, but they are fairly poor. Her mother's hands are permanently damaged from cleaning and physical labouring, her father - a Jewish ally - is dying of cancer, and she is forced to take in sewing and work for her uncle the aptly-cast butcher. Her uncle makes her sow homemade condoms before he rapes her using them, and her aunt, who knows about it, pays her medical school bills in exchange for her silence. It's a mess. The only people Herta knows with serious money are the local Jewish families, who have luxuries Herta could only dream of having. While Herta's initial negativity toward the Jews is obviously unwarranted, the reader can certainly find sympathy for her. When she's offered a position as a camp doctor, she understandably jumps at the chance - real income, escape from the evil uncle, help for her parents, a career, a future. During the interview process, she discovers a handful of the vile things expected of her and makes up her mind that she can't do it. And this is where we start losing sympathy. Her own terrible situation overrides her humanity and she decides to stay. And really, it's all a downward spiral from there. Later, when Kasia confronts her at her medical practice, she is offered one final shot at redemption and instead takes the coward's way out. Very well done!
Date published: 2017-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Enjoyed the book immensely. Received for a birthday gift. A not to be missed book
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a harrowing book Kelly’s novel tells the story of three very different women: New York socialite Caroline Ferriday, Polish teenager, Kasia Kuzmerick and German doctor Herta Oberheuser. It is 1939 and the one thing these women have in common is Adolf Hitler. Caroline is 37 when the story opens. She’s a retired actress who volunteers at the French consulate. Kasia is just 16 when Germany invades Poland and changes her life forever. She is working as a courier for the underground resistance movement when she and her older sister, Zuzanna, and their mother are arrested and shipped off to Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp for women. It is there that she encounters Herta, a young doctor who has taken a post at the camp because it is difficult for women in the medical field to find work. The novel is told in three separate first person narratives and once the book gets going it’s almost impossible not to be carried along by the horrors of Ravensbruck and Kasia’s desperate attempts to survive. There’s also a little angsty love story between Caroline and famous French actor Paul Rodierre. I read the first 200 pages in one sitting. Caroline and Herta are real people, as Kelly explains in her notes. Kazia and her sister are “loosely based on Nina Iwanska and her physician sister, Krystyna, both operated on in the camps.” It is almost impossible not to invest in these characters, and the sections concerning Kasia in Ravensbruck are particularly harrowing. There, she and her sister are among hundreds of women used as real-life guinea pigs (or “rabbits” as they are called) for the Ravensbruck doctors to experiment on. Herta’s participation in these horrific experiments, crimes that are against every aspect of the Hippocratic oath, seal her fate as a villain. The book is long and the ending seemed a little rushed to me and I could never figure out the title or the dumb book cover- which makes it seem like three girls are the best of friends. I also wasn’t fussy about Kasia and Herta’s showdown, but ultimately Lilac Girls was a good read.
Date published: 2017-02-26

Read from the Book

Chapter 1CarolineSeptember 1939If I’d known I was about to meet the man who’d shatter me like bone china on terra-cotta, I would have slept in. Instead, I roused our florist, Mr. Sitwell, from his bed to make a boutonnière. My first consulate gala was no time to stand on ceremony.I joined the riptide of the great unwashed moving up Fifth Avenue. Men in gray-felted fedoras pushed by me, the morning papers in their attachés bearing the last benign headlines of the decade. There was no storm gathering in the east that day, no portent of things to come. The only ominous sign from the direction of Europe was the scent of slack water wafting off the East River.As I neared our building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-ninth Street, I felt Roger watching from the window above. He’d fired people for a lot less than being twenty minutes late, but the one time of year the New York elite opened their wallets and pretended they cared about France was no time for skimpy boutonnières.I turned at the corner, the morning sun alive in the gold-leaf letters chiseled in the cornerstone: la maison française. The French Building, home to the French Consulate, stood side by side with the British Empire Building, facing Fifth Avenue, part of Rockefeller Center, Junior Rockefeller’s new complex of granite and limestone. Many foreign consulates kept offices there then, resulting in a great stew of international diplomacy.“All the way to the back and face the front,” said Cuddy, our elevator operator.Mr. Rockefeller handpicked the elevator boys, screening for manners and good looks. Cuddy was heavy on the looks, though his hair was already salt-and-peppered, his body in a hurry to age.Cuddy fixed his gaze on the illuminated numbers above the doors. “You got a crowd up there today, Miss Ferriday. Pia said there’s two new boats in.”“Delightful,” I said.Cuddy brushed something off the sleeve of his navy-blue uniform jacket. “Another late one tonight?”For the fastest elevators in the world, ours still took forever. “I’ll be gone by five. Gala tonight.”I loved my job. Grandmother Woolsey had started the work tradition in our family, nursing soldiers on the battlefield at Gettysburg. But my volunteer post as head of family assistance for the French Consulate wasn’t work really. Loving all things French was simply genetic for me. My father may have been half-Irish, but his heart belonged to France. Plus, Mother had inherited an apartment in Paris, where we spent every August, so I felt at home there.The elevator stopped. Even through the closed doors, we could hear a terrific din of raised voices. A shiver ran through me.“Third floor,” Cuddy called out. “French Consulate. Watch your—”Once the doors parted, the noise overpowered all polite speech. The hallway outside our reception area was packed so tightly with people one could scarcely step through. Both the Normandie and the Ile de France, two of France’s premier ocean liners, had landed that morning in New York Harbor, packed with wealthy passengers fleeing the uncertainty in France. Once the all-clear horn signaled and they were free to disembark, the ships’ elite streamed to the consulate to iron out visa problems and other sticky issues.I squeezed into the smoky reception area, past ladies in Paris’s newest day dresses who stood gossiping in a lovely cloud of Arpège, the sea spray still in their hair. The people in this group were accustomed to being shadowed by a butler with a crystal ashtray and a champagne flute. Bellboys in scarlet jackets from the Normandie went toe-to-toe with their black-jacketed counterparts from the Ile de France. I wedged one shoulder through the crowd, toward our secretary’s desk at the back of the room, and my chiffon scarf snagged on the clasp of one ravishing creature’s pearls. As I worked to extract it, the intercom buzzed unanswered.Roger.I pressed on through, felt a pat on my behind, and turned to see a midshipman flash a plaquey smile.“Gardons nos mains pour nous-mêmes,” I said. Let’s keep our hands to ourselves.The boy raised his arm above the crowd and dangled his Normandie stateroom key. At least he wasn’t the over-sixty type I usually attracted.I made it to our secretary’s desk, where she sat, head down, typing.“Bonjour, Pia.”Roger’s cousin, a sloe-eyed boy of eighteen, was sitting on Pia’s desk, legs crossed. He held his cigarette in the air as he picked through a box of chocolates, Pia’s favorite breakfast. My inbox on her desk was already stacked with case folders.“Vraiment? What is so good about it?” she said, not lifting her head.Pia was much more than a secretary. We all wore many hats, and hers included signing in new clients and establishing a folder for each, typing up Roger’s considerable correspondence, and deciphering the massive flood of daily Morse-code pulses that was the lifeblood of our office.“Why is it so hot in here?” I said. “The phone is ringing, Pia.”She plucked a chocolate from the box. “It keeps doing that.”Pia attracted beaux as if she emitted a frequency only males could detect. She was attractive in a feral way, but I suspected her popularity was due in part to her tight sweaters.“Can you take some of my cases today, Pia?”“Roger says I can’t leave this chair.” She broke the shell of the chocolate’s underside with her manicured thumb, stalking the strawberry crèmes. “He also wants to see you right away, but I think the woman on the sofa slept in the hallway last night.” Pia flapped one half of a one-hundred-dollar bill at me. “And the fatty with the dogs says he’ll give you the other half if you take him first.” She nodded toward the well-fed older couple near my office door, each holding a brace of gray-muzzled dachshunds.Like Pia’s, my job description was wide-ranging. It included attending to the needs of French citizens here in New York—often families fallen on hard times—and overseeing my French Families Fund, a charity effort through which I sent comfort boxes to French orphans overseas. I’d just retired from an almost two-decade-long stint on Broadway, and this felt easy by comparison. It certainly involved less unpacking of trunks.My boss, Roger Fortier, appeared in his office doorway.“Caroline, I need you now. Bonnet’s canceled.”“You can’t be serious, Roger.” The news came like a punch. I’d secured the French foreign minister as our gala keynote speaker months before.“It’s not easy being the French foreign minister right now,” he called over his shoulder as he went back inside.I stepped into my office and flipped through the Wheeldex on my desk. Was Mother’s Buddhist-monk friend Ajahn Chah free that night?“Caroline—” Roger called. I grabbed my Wheeldex and hurried to his office, avoiding the couple with the dachshunds, who were trying their best to look tragic.“Why were you late this morning?” Roger asked. “Pia’s been here for two hours already.”As consul general, Roger Fortier ruled from the corner suite with its commanding view of Rockefeller Plaza and the Promenade Cafe. Normally the famous skating rink occupied that sunken spot, but the rink was closed for the summer, the space now filled with café tables and tuxedoed waiters rushing about with aprons to their ankles. Beyond, Paul Manship’s massive golden Prometheus fell to earth, holding his stolen fire aloft. Behind it, the RCA Building shot up seventy floors into the sapphire sky. Roger had a lot in common with the imposing male figure of Wisdom chiseled above the building’s entrance. The furrowed brow. The beard. The angry eyes.“I stopped for Bonnet’s boutonnière—”“Oh, that’s worth keeping half of France waiting.” Roger bit into a doughnut, and powdered sugar cascaded down his beard. Despite what might kindly be called a husky figure, he was never at a loss for female companions.His desk was heaped with folders, security documents, and dossiers on missing French citizens. According to the French Consulate Handbook, his job was “to assist French nationals in New York, in the event of theft, serious illness, or arrest and with issues related to birth certificates, adoption, and lost or stolen documents; to plan visits of French officials and fellow diplomats; and to assist with political difficulties and natural disasters.” The troubles in Europe provided plenty of work for us in all those categories, if you counted Hitler as a natural disaster.“I have cases to get back to, Roger—”He sent a manila folder skidding across the polished conference table. “Not only do we have no speaker; I was up half the night rewriting Bonnet’s speech. Had to sidestep Roosevelt letting France buy American planes.”“France should be able to buy all the planes they want.”“We’re raising money here, Caroline. It’s not the time to annoy the isolationists. Especially the rich ones.”“They don’t support France anyway.”“We don’t need any more bad press. Is the U.S. too cozy with France? Will that push Germany and Russia closer? I can barely finish a third course without being interrupted by a reporter. And we can’t mention the Rockefellers . . . Don’t want another call from Junior. Guess that’ll happen anyway now that Bonnet canceled.”“It’s a disaster, Roger.”“May need to scrap the whole thing.” Roger raked his long fingers through his hair, digging fresh trenches through the Brylcreem.“Refund forty thousand dollars? What about the French Families Fund? I’m already operating on fumes. Plus, we’ve paid for ten pounds of Waldorf salad—”“They call that salad?” Roger flipped through his contact cards, half of them illegible and littered with cross-outs. “It’s pathetique . . . just chopped apples and celery. And those soggy walnuts . . .”I scoured my Wheeldex in search of celebrity candidates. Mother and I knew Julia Marlowe, the famous actress, but she was touring Europe. “How about Peter Patout? Mother’s people have used him.”“The architect?”“Of the whole World’s Fair. They have that seven-foot robot.”“Boring,” he said, slapping his silver letter opener against his palm.I flipped to the L’s. “How about Captain Lehude?”“Of the Normandie? Are you serious? He’s paid to be dull.”“You can’t just discount every suggestion out of hand, Roger. How about Paul Rodierre? Betty says everyone’s talking about him.”Roger pursed his lips, always a good sign. “The actor? I saw his new play in previews. He’s good. Tall and attractive, if you go for that look. Fast metabolism, of course.”“At least we know he can memorize a script.”“He’s a bit of a loose cannon. And married too, so don’t get any ideas.”“I’m through with men, Roger,” I said. At thirty-seven, I’d resigned myself to singledom.“Not sure Rodierre’ll do it. See who you can get, but make sure they stick to the script. No Roosevelt—”“No Rockefellers,” I finished.Between cases, I called around to various last-minute possibilities, ending up with one option, Paul Rodierre. He was in New York appearing in a new American musical revue at the Broadhurst Theatre, The Streets of Paris, Carmen Miranda’s cyclonic Broadway debut.I phoned the William Morris Agency and was told they’d check and call me back. Ten minutes later, M. Rodierre’s agent told me the theater was dark that night and that, though his client did not own evening clothes, he was deeply honored by our request to host the gala that evening. He’d meet me at the Waldorf to discuss details. Our apartment on East Fiftieth Street was a stone’s throw from the Waldorf, so I rushed there to change into Mother’s black Chanel dress.I found M. Rodierre seated at a café table in the Waldorf’s Peacock Alley bar adjacent to the lobby as the two-ton bronze clock sounded its lovely Westminster Cathedral chime on the half hour. Gala guests in their finest filtered in, headed for the Grand Ballroom upstairs.“M. Rodierre?” I said.Roger was right about the attractive part. The first thing a person notices about Paul Rodierre, after the initial jolt of his physical beauty, is the remarkable smile.“How can I thank you for doing this so last minute, Monsieur?”He unfolded himself from his chair, presenting a build better suited to rowing crew on the Charles than playing Broadway. He attempted to kiss my cheek, but I extended my hand to him, and he shook it. It was nice to meet a man my height.“My pleasure,” he said.His attire was the issue: green trousers, an aubergine velvet sports jacket, brown suede shoes, and worst of all, a black shirt. Only priests and fascists wore black shirts. And gangsters, of course.“Do you want to change?” I resisted the urge to tidy his hair, which was long enough to pull back with a rubber band. “Shave perhaps?” According to his agent, M. Rodierre was a guest at the hotel, so his razor sat just a few stories overhead.“This is what I wear,” he said with a shrug. Typical actor. Why hadn’t I known better? The parade of guests en route to the ballroom was growing, the women stunning in their finery, every man in tails and patent leather oxfords or calf opera pumps.“This is my first gala,” I said. “The consulate’s one night to raise money. It’s white tie.” Would he fit into Father’s old tux? The inseam would be right, but it would be much too tight in the shoulders.“Are you always this, well, energized, Miss Ferriday?”“Well, here in New York, individuality is not always appreciated.” I handed him the stapled sheets. “I’m sure you’re eager to see the script.”He handed it back. “No, merci.”I pushed it back into his hands. “But the consul general himself wrote it.”“Tell me again why I’m doing this?”“It’s to benefit displaced French citizens all year and my French Families Fund. We help orphans back in France whose parents have been lost for any number of reasons. With all the uncertainty abroad, we’re one reliable source of clothes and food. Plus, the Rockefellers will be there tonight.”He paged through the speech. “They could write a check and avoid this whole thing.”“They’re among our kindest donors, but please don’t refer to them. Or President Roosevelt. Or the planes the U.S. sold France. Some of our guests tonight love France, of course, but would rather stay out of a war for now. Roger wants to avoid controversy.”“Dancing around things never feels authentic. The audience feels that.”“Can you just stick to the script, Monsieur?”“Worrying can lead to heart failure, Miss Ferriday.”I pulled the pin from the lily of the valley. “Here—a boutonnière for the guest of honor.”“Muguet?” M. Rodierre said. “Where did you find that this time of year?”“You can get anything in New York. Our florist forces it from pips.”I rested my palm against his lapel and dug the pin deep into the French velvet. Was that lovely fragrance from him or the flowers? Why didn’t American men smell like this, of tuberose and wood musk and—“You know lily of the valley is poisonous, right?” M. Rodierre said.“So don’t eat it. At least not until you’ve finished speaking. Or if the crowd turns on you.”

Bookclub Guide

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For readers of The Nightingale and Sarah’s Key, inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this remarkable debut novel reveals the power of unsung women to change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances.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 the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems 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 Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.USA Today “New and Noteworthy” Book • LibraryReads Top Ten Pick “Harrowing . . . Lilac illuminates.”—People “A compelling, page-turning narrative . . . Lilac Girls falls squarely into the groundbreaking category of fiction that re-examines history from a fresh, female point of view. It’s smart, thoughtful and also just an old-fashioned good read.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram “A powerful story for readers everywhere . . . Martha Hall Kelly has brought readers a firsthand glimpse into one of history’s most frightening memories. A novel that brings to life what these women and many others suffered. . . . I was moved to tears.”—San Francisco Book Review “Extremely moving and memorable . . . This impressive debut should appeal strongly to historical fiction readers and to book clubs that adored Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.”—Library Journal (starred review) “[A] compelling first novel . . . This is a page-turner demonstrating the tests and triumphs civilians faced during war, complemented by Kelly’s vivid depiction of history and excellent characters.”—Publishers Weekly “Kelly vividly re-creates the world of Ravensbrück.”—Kirkus Reviews“Inspired by actual events and real people, Martha Hall Kelly has woven together the stories of three women during World War II that reveal the bravery, cowardice, and cruelty of those days. This is a part of history—women’s history—that should never be forgotten.”—Lisa See, New York Times bestselling author of China Dolls “Profound, unsettling, and thoroughly . . . the best book I’ve read all year.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet1. In what ways do you think the alternating points of view helped to enrich the narrative? Was there ever a time you when you wished there was only one narrator? Why or why not?2. The primary settings of this novel are starkly different – Caroline’s glamorous New York world of benefits and cultural events, and the bleak reality of life in a concentration camp. In what ways did the contrast between these two settings affect your reading experience?3. Caroline’s relationship with Paul is complicated, taboo even, was there ever a time when you didn’t agree with a choice Caroline made with regards to Paul? When and why?4. As Caroline became more and more invested in her work with the French Families Fund, and eventually with the “rabbits”, did you feel that she changed in any way? How were those changes apparent through her interactions with others?5. Throughout their time in Ravensbruck, Kasia and the other prisoners found subtle, and not so subtle, ways to demonstrate their resistance. Discuss the variety of actions they took. Which of them did you find to be most powerful? Most moving? Most effective?6. When Kasia learned that they were hunting “rabbits” on page 278 she thought “Just don’t feel anything. If you are to live, you cannot feel.” Do you agree with this statement? What do you think it says about the nature of survival? Is it relevant to any other characters in the book, not just the prisoners?7. Did you find Herta to be a sympathetic character? Why or why not?8. When Vilmer Hartman came to visit Ravensbruck he showed concern for Herta’s mental state. What do you think this revealed about her character? Had you previously thought about any of the points he made? 9. Though the Nazis made sure the German people only got their news from one media point of view, Herta's father continues to read as many newspapers as he can. Does this relate to media today?10. Did you feel that Halina's ring was an important symbol in the book? How did Herta feel about the ring? Why did she keep it?11. Throughout the novel, in and out of Ravensbruck, the characters experience harrowing, difficult situations. Was there one that you found more memorable than the others? Why do you think the author chose to include it?12. If you had to come up with a single message or lesson to represent each of the main characters’ experiences – Caroline, Kasia, Herta – what would it be and why? 13. Many of the themes explored in Lilac Girls – human rights, political resistance, survival – are a direct result of the historical WWII setting. How are those themes relevant to current events today? 14. Lilac Girls also touches on a number of interpersonal themes including female friendship, mother-daughter relationships, love, infidelity, mental health, and more. How do these themes impact the characters’ lives?15. What do you think the author hoped her readers would take away from this reading experience? 

Editorial Reviews

“Harrowing . . . Lilac illuminates.”—People   “A compelling, page-turning narrative . . . Lilac Girls falls squarely into the groundbreaking category of fiction that re-examines history from a fresh, female point of view. It’s smart, thoughtful and also just an old-fashioned good read.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram   “A powerful story for readers everywhere . . . Martha Hall Kelly has brought readers a firsthand glimpse into one of history’s most frightening memories. A novel that brings to life what these women and many others suffered. . . . I was moved to tears.”—San Francisco Book Review   “Extremely moving and memorable . . . This impressive debut should appeal strongly to historical fiction readers and to book clubs that adored Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.”—Library Journal (starred review)   “[A] compelling first novel . . . This is a page-turner demonstrating the tests and triumphs civilians faced during war, complemented by Kelly’s vivid depiction of history and excellent characters.”—Publishers Weekly   “Kelly vividly re-creates the world of Ravensbrück.”—Kirkus Reviews“Inspired by actual events and real people, Martha Hall Kelly has woven together the stories of three women during World War II that reveal the bravery, cowardice, and cruelty of those days. This is a part of history—women’s history—that should never be forgotten.”—Lisa See, New York Times bestselling author of China Dolls   “This is the kind of book I wish I had the courage to write—a profound, unsettling, and thoroughly captivating look at sisterhood through the dark lens of the Holocaust. Lilac Girls is the best book I’ve read all year. It will haunt you.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet   “Rich with historical detail and riveting to the end, Lilac Girls weaves the lives of three astonishing women into a story of extraordinary moral power set against the harrowing backdrop of 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 bestselling author of A Hundred Summers and The Secret Life of Violet Grant