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GENRE: Historical Fiction, WWII
Set during WWII, the novel alternates between the perspectives of three women impacted in very different ways by the Ravensbruck concentration camp. At once a devastating retelling of suffering and an inspiring story of hope and friendship, this historical novel emphasizes the strength of the human spirit in unimaginable circumstances.
Martha’s debut novel Lilac Girls, became a New York Times bestseller the week it was published in 2016 and then went on to sell over two million copies and publish in 50 countries. The novel is based on the true story of 72 Polish women who were imprisoned and experimented on at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and how Caroline Ferriday, an American philanthropist brought them to the U.S. for rehabilitation and the trip of a lifetime.
Martha followed Lilac Girls with Lost Roses about Caroline’s mother, and Sunflower Sisters about Caroline’s great grandmother, which also became Instant New York Times best sellers.
Her latest novel, The Golden Doves, which returns to WWII, arrives in bookstores April 18th, 2023.
Martha grew up in Massachusetts and now splits her time between Connecticut and New York City. - Author's website
Kelly’s three narrators are based on actual people whose destinies converged in or around Ravensbrück, Hitler’s concentration camp for women. It's 1939: Hitler has invaded Poland, and although few suspect it, France is next. Caroline, a former debutante who, at 37, appears to have missed her chance for marriage, does charity work at the French Consulate in Manhattan. Requests for visas accelerate, as does demand for the care packages Caroline sends overseas. When her married would-be lover, Paul, leaves New York for Paris shortly before the Germans march in, Caroline fears the worst. Kasia, a former Girl Guide, joins an underground youth group after the Nazis occupy her hometown of Lublin, Poland. Soon she's arrested, along with her mother and sister, Zuzanna, a medical student. The women are sent to Ravensbrück, a concentration camp whose mission is to work the prisoners to death—those, that is, who aren't terminated immediately upon arrival. (A crude form of lethal injection is used, as the Nazis are still experimenting with more efficient means of mass murder.) Kasia watches in horror as one of her former teachers is fatally mauled by a dog set on her by Binz, the head guard. Young physician Herta, the third narrator, is a loyal German and Nazi. Although not happy about Hitler’s edict that women doctors cannot be surgeons, she's less than upset when her father’s Jewish doctor is deported. She accepts a post at Ravensbrück, where her Hippocratic oath is immediately compromised: her first duty is to dispatch an elderly prisoner. Her eagerness to scrub in quickly overcomes any remaining scruples as Herta conducts grisly surgical “experiments” on inmates, including Kasia. The women, many permanently maimed, who undergo these “studies” become known as the “Rabbits.” Kelly vividly re-creates the world of Ravensbrück but is less successful integrating the wartime experience of Caroline, whose involvement with the surviving Rabbits comes very late. In this mashup of two war novels, the more conventional New York story pales by comparison. (Reviewed 01/21/2016)
Kelly’s compelling first novel follows three women through the course of World War II and beyond. Caroline, a wealthy New Yorker, volunteers at the French consulate in New York, assisting refugees and raising funds. She meets Paul, a charming, married French actor, and sparks fly. Kasia, a young woman living in Poland during the Nazi invasion, works for the resistance until she is captured and sent to Ravensbruck, the women’s concentration camp. There, she encounters Herta, a doctor hired to help execute inmates and perform experiments. Though her mother is Herta’s trusted assistant, and even saved a camp guard’s life, Kasia is operated on, joining the “Rabbits,” inmates deformed from their surgeries. Meanwhile, Caroline loses touch with Paul when he returns to France to find his wife, and she finds herself tasked with keeping track of the growing concentration camp network for the consulate, learned from British intelligence. After the war, she travels to France to assist in locating missing people, where she learns about the Rabbits, including Kasia, who is struggling to let go of her anger and move on with her life. Despite some horrific scenes, this is a page-turner demonstrating the tests and triumphs civilians faced during war, complemented by Kelly’s vivid depiction of history and excellent characters. Agent:Alexandra Machinist, ICM Partners. (Apr.)
by Jessica Shattuck
At the end of World War II, Marianne von Lingenfels offers shelter to two widows of fallen resistance fighters and their children in a formerly majestic Bavarian castle that was once host to German aristocrats.
by Pam Jenoff
After discovering an abandoned, photograph-filled suitcase in Grand Central Station in 1946 a young widow sets out to discover who the people in the pictures are.
by Alyson Richman
During the last moments of calm in prewar Prague, Lenka, a young art student, and Josef, who is studying medicine, fall in love. With the promise of a better future, they marry--only to have their dreams shattered by the imminent Nazi invasion. Like so many others, they are torn apart by the currents of war.