Lost Roses

Martha Hall Kelly. Ballantine, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-1-5247-9637-2
How Caroline Ferriday, the real-life character featured in Kelly’s Lilac Girls, was inspired to become an advocate for Polish refugees who survived WWII comes to light in this lively, well-researched prequel in which she appears as a child. Here the story focuses on her mother, Eliza, who set an example for her daughter by being a champion for Russian nobility brutalized during WWI. Just as the author focused on three strong women surviving a war in her previous novel, she does the same here: in addition to Eliza, there is her aristocrat friend Sofya Streshnayva (cousin to the tsar) and a Russian peasant girl, Varinka. The author follows the trajectory of their lives from 1914 through WWI and then the Russian Revolution and its aftermath with page-tuning brio. Interweaving three story lines (Varinka ends up working for the Streshnayva household) where all three are emotionally and physically put to the test, the author depicts Eliza’s upper-class life in America and how, despite personal loss, she throws herself into helping Russian emigres; Sofya’s tragic circumstances when a rowdy, dangerous mob takes over the family’s country home; and Varinka’s struggles as a peasant girl at the mercy of a man who is both abusive and protective toward her. Some story lines strain credibility (coincidences and melodramatic cliffhangers abound) or are questionable (the prurient element involved with Varinka’s protector/abuser falls flat). Nevertheless, Kelly memorably portrays three indomitable women who triumph over hardships and successfully brings a complex and turbulent time in history to life. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/30/2019
Release date: 04/02/2019
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 800 pages - 978-1-984886-21-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-984845-39-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-984845-37-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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