Lost Roses – by Martha Hall Kelly – book review

This sequel (technically a prequel) to LILAC GIRLS is really a standalone novel. No need to have read the first book. Instead of continuing the story of Caroline Woolsey Ferriday‘s (protagonist of LILAC GIRLS), LOST ROSES is built, in part, around the life of Caroline’s mother, Eliza Woolsey Ferriday. Like Caroline, Eliza is an actual historical figure — both part of a wealthy American family known for its formidable women and good works. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

Eliza’s story centers around World War I and the Russian Revolution. Beginning in 1914, before the war begins, Eliza’s close friendship with Russian aristocrat Sofya Streshnayva forms the foundation of the story. As it unfolds, the book is told from the perspectives of three women:
• Philanthropist Eliza – and her efforts to help both her friend and other desperate Russian emigres,
• Sofya – a cousin of Tsar Nicolas II, and her harrowing escape from war-torn Russia, with horrific accompanying losses,
• Varinka – a Russian peasant, living on Sofya’s estate, whose opportunities expand during the Russian Revolution.

The novel spans the years 1914-21. For many of those years, the friends lose touch. Each suffers significant personal losses. Parts of the book take place in Paris and Connecticut — both of which became refuges for many aristocrats or White Russians fleeing Russia. There’s a realistic glimpse of the savagery of both World War I and the Revolution in Russia. And you’ll see all the ways in which war somewhat whimsically changes the fortunes of individuals and families.

The book is often suspenseful, which makes it a reasonably compelling read. I can’t say I enjoyed this one QUITE as much as LILAC GIRLS, though it’s well-written and held my attention. Part of the reason may be the fact that I found the subject matter more interesting in the first book.

Martha Hall Kelly

The next and third novel in this series promises to be about Caroline’s great-grandmother, Jane Eliza Newton Woolsey (another historic figure), best known for both her abolitionist work during the Civil War and her efforts to establish the first nursing services in the US.

More about the author, Martha Hall Kelly.

You may want to read my review of Lilac Girls, the first novel in this series.