Martha Hall Kelly
Lilac Girls is essentially the story about a group of women brought together by the tragedy of war. Set just before and during World War II, it follows the story of Caroline Ferriday, a New York socialite, who worked with the French consulate in New York, helping victims during the war. It also follows several women from Poland, who end up in Ravensbrück, Germany's female only concentration camp. There was also a German female doctor there who worked at the camp and participating in medical experiments performed on the women.
While the book follows the women both before, during and after the war, I felt like I was reading what could have been two different books. The story of Caroline Ferriday of New York takes up a considerable portion of the book and while it is supposed to tell the story of how she helped the Ravensbrück victims, it takes an enormously long time before these characters meet up in the book. As the book is based on true events and since Caroline Ferriday was an actual figure, I somehow can't help thinking that she alone could have been the subject of a book. As it stands, the chapters weave back and forth between Caroline's life in New York, and later in France, the lives of the women in concentration camp and the female doctor, but the reader is left wondering how this fits together, if they only have any connection with one another at the end of the book.
I also felt the ending was very abrupt and shallow. After having read so much about these characters I would have been interested to know how the rest of their lives turned out. While, I don't think this was a bad book, it did seem uneven and perhaps there was too much time spent on trivial details such as New York parties attended by Caroline Ferriday. I can't help but wonder, if Caroline should have had a smaller role in the story, or if a slightly different structure would have made this book more compelling.
Thanks to Shelf Awareness and Random House for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.