When Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy and I met to chat up our Lilac Girls Book Club, we both immediately said the same thing: “This fall is insane!” And, friends, I am sure you know all too well that insane falls mean very little time for mommies to read. Alas! Tragic, I know, but here’s hoping that the coming cooler temps leave a little more downtime for us all to grab some quality moments with our books.
In the meantime, the one book Carrie and I both managed to sneak into our busy days was Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, and we’ve been looking forward to touching down and sharing our thoughts about the book here with you. Did you read it? What did you think? What questions do you have?
And stay tuned below–as always, a copy of our next book club pick is up for grabs! Just leave a comment on this Lilac Girls Book Club post telling us you want it and you are entered.
Let’s get the Lilac Girls Book Club discussion rolling!
Which of the three ladies could you most see yourself in?
This is a tough question for me to answer. Obviously it was far easier to relate to Caroline’s journey since I’ve never had lived in a country where war was being fought. However, Caroline possessed a selflessness, grit and simple acceptance of life that I do not. I found myself relating more to Kasia’s emotional turmoil of letting go of a bad experience, yet her perseverance in the face of horror was also foreign and awe-inspiring to me.
Discuss the role of hope in this novel. How did it’s presence or lack there of affect the experiences of the characters?
Hope was a tremendous theme throughout Lilac Girls. During the war, it served as the primary manna of so many as a means for pressing on and for survival. I think hope was most admirably seen by the ladies in the concentration camp as what they clung to so as not to give up in the face of such abject horror. Hope is also seen in other ways throughout the book; the hope of not getting caught that encouraged the underground movement to keep taking risks, hope of Caroline that Paul might still be alive, and the hope of Herta that she wouldn’t be severely punished for her deeds (to name a few examples).
How did this book compare to other books written about this era that you have read?
Carrie and I discussed how Lilac Girls was unusual in that it featured a German who did not have qualms about her actions. I don’t think I’ve ever read something from the perspective of one who so wholly placed belief in Hitler’s commands.
We also noted how it was interesting to have the story carry on after the war ended. Both immediate and long-term follow-up pieces of the story allowed for unique glimpses into how people from diverse war experiences were marked by the war, how they adjusted to and then coped with post-war life.
Did anything about the book surprise you?
The Author’s Notes at the end! I had no idea that this novel was so factually-based, that Herta and Caroline were real people, and that Kasia and Zuzanna were modeled from a true concentration camp story of two sisters. Not only was it inspiring to learn that so many elements of this story were real, it also helped explain the somewhat disjointed telling of the tale. The author (whose immense research undertaking was incredibly impressive) had the task of piecing together a story where many pieces were undoubtedly missing; the luxury of a smoothly crafted fictional story was not hers for the taking.
Were you able to feel any sympathy for Herta? What do you think appropriate punishment for her and her fellow doctors should have been?
No! And this was a surprise too. Most often, I am able to feel some sort of a connection with any character, but that Herta was so wholly un-remorseful left me sans sympathy for her. As for punishment, life in prison seems fitting as an imprisoned life is what they gave others.
Aside from the connection made at the end of the book, do you see any ties or similarities between the three main characters?
Returning to the grit I discussed in the first question, all of the ladies, albeit for very different purposes and reasons, maintained a very firm determination to carry on with their lot in life. In our modern world, we have far more freedom to question and evaluate the hand we’ve been dealt, whereas these ladies all faced limited options (Kasia had the least freedom of the three, Caroline the most). Yet all three seemed to spend minimal time brooding over their circumstances, and rather focused more on how to best press through them.
As always, friends, we’d love to hear your thoughts and questions for this Lilac Girls Book Club meeting! Please share them and discuss below!
What are we reading next?
“A brilliant novel from the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, about a day in the life of Eleanor Flood, forced to abandon her small ambitions and awake to a strange, new future.
Eleanor knows she’s a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won’t swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action-life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother’s company. It’s also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office-but not Eleanor-that he’s on vacation. Just when it seems like things can’t go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.
Today Will Be Different is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.”
Sound like a fantastic read for our mid-life mom hearts? I know! We thought so too.
Even better news? A copy of Today Will be Different is up for grabs! Just leave a comment on this Lilac Girls book club post telling us you want it before 10/14/16 at 5:30am ET and you are entered! As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental U.S., you are eligible!
Friends, we can’t thank you enough for reading with us in our Lilac Girls Book Club and sharing our love of books. Here’s to a new month of fall reading! Enjoy!
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