Top positive review
A Sisterhood of Survival, Recollection and Redemption
Reviewed in the United States on January 19, 2018
Lilac Girls is one of the most moving Holocaust novels this reviewer has ever read. The story covers a twenty year period from 1939-1959. Kelly's exhaustive archival research, interviews of concentration camp survivors and visits to sites in the US, Poland, Germany and France make her work more one of fact than of fiction. At first the reader meets Caroline Ferriday, who really lived as a socialite, Broadway actress, charity worker and volunteer at the NY French consulate. Then, there are the Polish Kusmerick sisters, based on real sisters from Lublin, who were interred at the all women's concentration camp at Ravensbrück, Germany. There they and 72 other inmates were subjected to hedonistic and debilitating operations and injections performed by Nazi physicians. Many of these inmates could no longer walk erect, but were reduced to hopping for which they were dubbed "the Rabbits of Ravensbrück". They suffered and while some succomed, others survived to give testomony to their ordeal. Finally, and perhaps most strikingly, there is Herta Oberhauser, one of the real Nazi doctors who performs these "experimental procedures" on the inmates. After the war, Dr Oberhauser was captured, tried at the doctors' trial in Nuremburg and incarcerated. With great mastery, the author intertwines the lives of all of these female characters as though she were plaiting a neat braid in which the ends unite in a satisfying whole. These are charcters and expriences that resonate with the reader, long after the last page is read.