“retrouvailles, another one of those words that do not translate into English, which means “the happiness of meeting someone you love again after a long time.”
Hello, my bookish friends. I hope you’re doing great. I have something to admit, I always find it hard to review books that I really like, because either they affect me, or they talk about life and sad things that the characters are going through, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by that. And guess what, today I’m going to talk about Lilac Girls which is in fact based on a true story. When I bought this book I didn’t know anything about it, except that it’s set in world war 2. It was such a horrifying, yet an honest story of brave women. Without further ado, let’s review this book!
The story takes place during world war two when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, and it explores the lives of three women. Caroline Ferriday is a socialite and a philanthropist who volunteers at the French consulate in New York to help orphaned children that were affected by war, by sending them food packages. On the other hand, Kasia is a young Polish girl who lives with her family in town. When she gets deeper into the politics and war, she decides to be an emissary for the underground movement. One day, her mission goes totally wrong when the German soldiers catch her along with her sister and mother, and send them to Ravensbruck concentration camp. Away from Poland, there is Herta who is a young ambitious German Doctor. She has dedicated her entire life for medicine and she would do anything to get better. When she hears about Ravensbruck concentration camp, she feels that it’s a great opportunity to pass. So, she signs her name for the offered position and takes the job. However, throughout the grotesque medical experiments on the female prisoners in camp that are executed by Herta, Kasia is determined to make it through the horrifying pain, and hunger in order to tell the truth if she survived.
This book left me in awe. The writing style was detailed, and the pace of the book picked up slowly. It’s the kind of the book that you need to take your time with, because it talks about real war events that happened. I’ve heard about the Ravensbruck concentration camp before, but reading about it is a whole different experience. And following those women’s lives in the camp was heartbreaking. The way they were treated was brutal and dehumanizing. Every single day in that camp was like a living hell. The female prisoners were tortured, raped, and punished for no reason. Some of them were attacked by dogs, thrown in a cold, solitary confinements for weeks, and killed. The medical experiments on the female prisoners were gruesome. I felt sick to my stomach when I reached the part when Herta started executing the experiments, because they were explained in the book in specific details. Like seriously, don’t read that part of the book while you’re eating, because it will make you feel nauseous.
Now let’s talk about the characters. The story is told through Caroline, Kasia, and Herta’s point of views, and I think that’s what makes it spellbinding. Because, it’s really engaging to read about how each one of those three women were affected by war in various ways. Like Caroline, she is a New Yorker socialite, privileged woman, and she always did what was necessary to help with the difficult situations that France was going through. But when Germany invaded France, they couldn’t send enough food packages or money, because of the war. When it comes to Kasia, she wanted to be a Nurse, and her sister wanted to be a Doctor, but their dreams were crushed when they were taken to the camp. Each day there broke them, but Kasia was smart, courageous, and she wanted to survive to expose those guards, and doctors who harmed the female prisoners. The third character is Herta, who lived in Germany with her father, and mother. She wanted to gain more medical experience, but she had no clue what she was getting herself into. She was manipulated by the Doctors at the camp, because they led her to believe that she was just doing her job, and experimenting on healthy people was for the greater good in medicine. It’s interesting to see how her personality shifted to a criminal and cold one when she started killing innocent women. I felt furious at what happened to Kasia’s mother Halina because of Herta. When the female prisoners escaped the camp, and years later after going back to their normal lives. Post world war 2, Caroline helped the Polish women known as the ‘Rabbits’ by sending them to the United states for treatment. Later on, she and Kasia brought justice for camp survivors by exposing Herta. I can’t believe how strong, and resilient the ‘Rabbits’ were. Sometimes, i wished the boo was told through Kasia and Herta’s point of views, because i wanted to read more about the life in the camp. Caroline chapters are my least favorite to be honest, because they’re really long, and sometimes that didn’t add up much to the story. And her love relationship with Paul was doomed from the beginning, i don’t understand how she had so much hope, even though she knew it won’t last. The end of the book was satisfying and i really liked it.
To wrap up my review, this is an insightful, raw, and powerful book that I would recommend it to anyone. A story about war, friendship, love, and feminism that represents that era in a memorable, and thought provoking way. If you love historical fiction books, then I promise you, that you won’t ever regret reading this book.