This is certainly not a light read. Nor a fun one. It is seeped with a tragedy that will touch every one of our hearts in some way – with sorrow, but also with admiration at the strength of people throughout these brutal times, and specifically for this book, the women.
It is clear that the historical aspect of this book was incredibly well-researched and proved to be equally intriguing as one of the reasons I love historical fiction is that we learn so much more about parts of history that we didn’t know about before in perhaps as much detail. It was also very interesting to read the author’s notes at the end of the book and I loved how she drew upon real-life people for her fictional characters, making everything so much more meaningful.
I have not read Lilac Girls, you do not have to read the books in this series in order. I read somewhere that Lilac Girls is about how women were experimented on and I was so horrified at the thought I didn’t think I would be able to read it so that is why I skipped to the second book in this series. If you have read Lilac Girls, do let me know how disturbing you found it so I can judge whether I want to read it or not.
This book covers the period before and during World War I. It circles around three women – two are Russian and one is American, and each occupy a different social class which is good in exploring the different ways that people were affected by the War.
Eliza Ferriday is American and fond of travelling. She has a bright daughter and a dutiful husband and everything seems to be going well for her. She is also best friends with Sofya Streshnavya. Eliza’s life takes a turn for the worst due to something that is not to do with the war, and the happiness of her and her family’s plummets. The book explores the way she copes with her sorrow, and shows just how strong of a woman she was. Another big takeaway from this book was how less affected America was by the war in contrast to others such as Russia.
Sofya Streshnavya is Russian and is married to a well-respected officer and has a two-year-old son whom she loves very much. She is a cousin of the Romanov’s who were the royal family in Russia at the time, so she is therefore the one who suffers the most due to the war out of the three women.
Verinka is also Russian, and is hired by Sofya’s family. She is probably the only of the three women that you could argue wasn’t “good”. However, taking into the fact that she was brought up into poverty and was under the control of some bad men into consideration, I think her actions are understandable. It was definitely horrifying reading about some of the aspects of her life.
The first 100 pages of this book was relatively slow-paced, however I found it suited the course of the book as it was able to provide a strong foundation of the three women and also develop a contrast of their lives before and then during the war.
The writing is also beautiful and perfect for the book. It weaves a memorable story intertwined between these three women and merged with the history of the time, resulting in an unforgettable book that will leave you thinking about it long after you put it down. It is, at the very least, a humbling read.