Martha Hall Kelly does an outstanding job with this detailed and heartbreaking account of the tragic events that happened during World War II in, Lilac Girls. The book is told from the point of view of three different women that come from different backgrounds and were affected in different ways by the war.
Caroline volunteers at the French Consulate and is quite the philanthropist for the French, especially the orphans. She goes as far as to sell her own family’s china so that she can send the orphans in France the things they need. She crosses paths with the other women at the end of the book and helps so many people along the way, making a real difference in their lives. Caroline’s romance with a married actor is also a big part of the story.
Kasia is a young Polish woman that becomes involved in an underground operation that ends in her being captured and sent away to a concentration camp with her family. She feels very guilty for getting her family involved, “It was one thing to suffer myself on account of my own stupidity and quite another to bring everyone I loved down with me.” Some pretty awful things happen to her and all the women that have to endure life at Ravensbruck. Survival is something that they have to fight hard for and many of them didn’t survive the camp. “Sadness was often a more potent killer than disease. Some gave up, stopped eating, and died.” Kasia, fueled by her anger, says, “The hate grew in my chest. How could I live without revenge?”
The third narrator is German woman named Herta, who is the only female doctor at the camp. She takes the job to fulfill her dreams of being a surgeon and has no idea of the horrors that await her there.
There are some pretty graphic, horrific and heart-breaking moments in this book. The author actually based this novel on a true story and did a lot of research to make her story as accurate as possible. This book was very well written and will surely touch the heart of everyone who reads it.
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
This book has been getting lots of good reviews so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! The Women in the Castle is the story of three women who come to live together in a rundown castle at the end of World War II. It reminded me very much of “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah.
The prologue starts out pre-war, where Marianne von Lingenfel promises to be “the commander/protector of the wives and children” at a secret meeting her husband, her lifetime friend, and other men are having to plan actions against Hitler. Later she is called “the widow of the resistance.”
In order to honor her promise to her husband, best friend and the other husbands (who were all caught and killed for their actions) she sets out in search of the wives and children left behind after the war.
First she locates Martin, son of her beloved, deceased friend Connie. Next she tracks down Benita (mother of Martin/wife of Connie). It is obvious they have both been deeply affected by the war. Benita is broken, frail and withdrawn. Martin is quiet and subdued. Their love for each other keeps them going.
Marianne then discovers another resister’s wife (Ania) and her children and brings them to live with her at the castle. Marianne, Benita and Ania develop a friendship and live together many years. Throughout all of their stories you learn about each of their struggles for survival, their damaged souls, and the horrible ordeals they have all survived.
The book exposes all the horrors of the Hitler era and the effects of war. Secrets are revealed that affect the friendships the women have forged. Each woman has to come to terms with horrors from their past to move forward with their lives. I can’t say much more without revealing too much about the book. It was a very good novel about war, friendship, love, the power of the past and the will to survive. Highly recommended!!!
Finally got around to reading this gem. A very moving story about two sisters during the holocaust era. Isabelle has always been a bit of a rebel, always speaking her mind, determined to make a difference. Vianne has always been the rule follower, cautious and afraid. Both women are forced to be strong, face severe conditions and fight to survive during the war.
There are some chilling and horrific moments in the book that really open up your eyes to what people had to face during war. The book focuses on how war effects people. The book discusses family, love, loss and motherhood as well.
“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.” “Grief, like regret, settles into your DNA and remains forever a part of us.” Great book. Very moving! Couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.