Updated: Sep 22, 2022
By Martha Hall Kelly
Unique, breathtaking take on WWII dramatic story
Even after so many decades since the end of WWII, stories continue to emerge from its history. Against this backdrop of important records of human triumph and suffering, Lilac Girls achieves quite a feat: its story is unique. Unique because of its primary setting—the Ravensbruck concentration camp set aside for medical experiments on women. Unique because it celebrates the Broadway actress Caroline Ferriday and how she individually persisted in bringing attention to these women and coming to their aid.
Unique because the author, Martha Hall Kelly, intertwines the stories of three women who each represent sides of the conflict: Caroline, the actress; Kasia the Polish concentration camp survivor, and O the only female Nazi doctor prosecuted in the Nuremberg Trials. Sometimes overlapping, sometimes accelerating the narrative, the three women’s voices create an intense, provocative, hopeful and finally redemptive intersection. Kelly’s debut novel is skillfully told and beautifully honors and unsung heroine and the Ravensbruck survivors.