by Martha Hall Kelly
PBR Book Review:Historical Fiction Lovers will not be able to put this debut novel down. It's based on the actual story of women imprisoned at Ravensbruck Concentration camp. The only female concentration camp during WWII. The Nazi's operated on the women using them as human guinea pigs. As a result of their injuries, they hopped around camp and the Nazi's nicknamed them The Rabbits. The story is told from the perspective of three different women.
This is a fantastic book about a small piece of important history and one woman's fight to do the right thing. It's one of the best audiobooks I've listened to in quite some time. The characters so well developed and I became invested in their well-being. I felt compelled to seek out more information after finishing the book. I found a wealth of information on the author's website. It's excellent! You'll find pictures of The Rabbits, ideas for Book Clubs and more. Don't miss this one!
Book Club Talking Points: **A Note From The Author: There’s so much for book clubs to talk about with Lilac Girls. The debilitating power of guilt. Mothers and daughters. Is it better to forgive or just forget? What does it mean to really love someone? How does it all connect to our current political landscape? And Halina’s ring is always an interesting topic.
*Other Books by Same Author: Debut
1. In what ways do you think the alternating points of view helped to enrich the narrative? Was there ever a time you when you wished there was only one narrator? Why or why not?
2. The primary settings of this novel are starkly different – Caroline’s glamorous New York world of benefits and cultural events, and the bleak reality of life in a concentration camp. In what ways did the contrast between these two settings affect your reading experience?
3. Caroline’s relationship with Paul is complicated, taboo even, was there ever a time when you didn’t agree with a choice Caroline made with regards to Paul? When and why?
4. As Caroline became more and more invested in her work with the French Families Fund, and eventually with the “rabbits”, did you feel that she changed in any way? How were those changes apparent through her interactions with others?
5. Throughout their time in Ravensbruck, Kasia and the other prisoners found subtle, and not so subtle, ways to demonstrate their resistance. Discuss the variety of actions they took. Which of them did you find to be most powerful? Most moving? Most effective?
6. When Kasia learned that they were hunting “rabbits” on page 278 she thought “Just don’t feel anything.If you are to live, you cannot feel.” Do you agree with this statement? What do you think it says about the nature of survival? Is it relevant to any other characters in the book, not just the prisoners?
7. Did you find Herta to be a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
8. When Vilmer Hartman came to visit Ravensbruck he showed concern for Herta’s mental state. What do you think this revealed about her character? Had you previously thought about any of the points he made?
9. Though the Nazis made sure the German people only got their news from one media point of view, Herta’s father continues to read as many newspapers as he can. Does this relate to media today?
10. Did you feel that Halina’s ring was an important symbol in the book? How did Herta feel about the ring? Why did she keep it?
11. Throughoutthenovel,inandoutofRavensbruck,thecharactersexperience harrowing, difficult situations. Was there one that you found more memorable than the others? Why do you think the author chose to include it?
12. If you had to come up with a single message or lesson to represent each of the main characters’ experiences – Caroline, Kasia, Herta – what would it be and why?
13. Many of the themes explored in Lilac Girls– human rights, political resistance, survival – are a direct result of the historical WWII setting. How are those themes relevant to current events today?
14. Lilac Girlsalso touches on a number of interpersonal themes including female friendship, mother-daughter relationships, love, infidelity, mental health, and more. How do these themes impact the characters’ lives?
15. What do you think the author hoped her readers would take away from this reading experience?
Discussion questions provided by the publisher.
Publisher: Ballantine Books April 5, 2016 – Historical Fiction – 512 pages, ISBN: 1101883081
Based on a true story of a New York socialite who championed a group of concentration camp survivors known as the Rabbits, this acclaimed debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and terrible secrets that were hidden for decades.
Caroline Ferriday is a former Broadway actress and liaison to the French consulate whose life is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France. An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, sinks deeper into her role as a courier for the underground resistance movement. In Germany, Herta Oberheuser, a young doctor, answers an ad for a government medical position—only to find herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.
The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents, as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.