Just when I think I’ve read all of the best historical fiction novels, a new one comes along.
In this case it’s the story of Helene, a young mother who finds the horrors of war at her doorstep when she and her family are thrown into a concentration camp. Separated from her husband, she focuses on keeping her children safe. As a nurse she earns herself a bit of an advantage and is able to secure work along with a few extra, although slight, privileges. The doctor she’s enlisted to work for, however, is none other than Josef Mengele. Even as she struggles to help those around her, she still must bear witness to his evilness at work.
This is a heartbreaking story, as are all tales about this time in history. This one is even more so as it’s based on a true story. Helene was a real person, and how she chose to live her life even in the face of the greatest hardships imaginable will inspire you while making you weep at the same time.
Buy It Now: Auschwitz Lullaby
With every new piece of historical fiction I read, I gain something. Knowledge about a previously unheard of occurrence, deeper understanding of an event, compassion for a character that I never imagined…these things are all possible with a good story. Lilac Girls takes a horrible time most are familiar with, the Holocaust, and introduces the reader to an aspect that many have never heard of.
The year is 1939. Hitler has just invaded Poland. France is next. With her work at the French consulate, Caroline feels the tragedy more than most New Yorkers. Her job takes her into the lives of those most affected, finding homes for children orphaned by the war and arranging care packages for families.
Across the sea, Kasia witnesses her childhood stripped away as her town is taken over. Not satisfied just sitting by and watching everything she loves destroyed, she begins working for the underground resistance movement. Never in her wildest dreams does she imagine that not only will this endanger her life, but the lives of her mother and sister as well. When her secret life is discovered, they’re all rounded up and shipped off to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp for women.
It’s here that they cross paths with Herta. Her path in life has been changed as well, although surely in not as tragic a way as Kasia’s. Before the invasion, Herta was well on her way to becoming a respected German doctor. Now she’s deep into war crimes and horrible experiments at Ravensbruck.
This is yet another story that reminds the reader of one of the darkest times in our world’s history, a time when people were persecuted and killed simply for who they were. It’s heartbreaking and thought-provoking at the same time, especially in today’s tumultuous climate. It’s also a story of love and survival and hope, things that can get people through some of the darkest times.
Buy It Now: Lilac Girls