“Lost Roses” is a compelling historical fiction novel penned by Martha Hall Kelly.
Published in 2019, the book is the second installment in a series of novels by Kelly, but serves as a prequel to her New York Times bestseller, “Lilac Girls.”
Kelly demonstrates her storytelling prowess in this gripping tale, transporting readers back to the brink of World War I, a tumultuous time where the lives of the book’s characters were forever altered.
The story unfolds in a setting that spans continents, from the lavish estates of Long Island to the glittering courts of St. Petersburg, and the bleak landscapes of war-torn Russia.
The novel artfully intertwines the lives of three women, each from disparate backgrounds, who find their fates inexplicably bound by the impending Great War.
Central to the book’s theme is enduring friendship, resilience in the face of adversity, and the indomitable spirit of humanity.
Summary of the Book
“Lost Roses” offers readers a meticulously crafted narrative with a skillful blend of historical accuracy and creative storytelling.
The story primarily revolves around three women; Eliza Ferriday, an affluent American socialite; Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs; and Varinka, a peasant girl from Russia.
Eliza Ferriday, a well-to-do woman from New York, epitomizes compassion and tenacity.
She is a dedicated philanthropist, and her friendship with Sofya, born out of a shared love for flowers, forms a pivotal plot point in the story.
Sofya Streshnayva, a Russian aristocrat, leads a life of privilege and luxury until World War I shatters her world, forcing her to grapple with unforeseen challenges.
Her character portrays courage and determination, as she battles to keep her family safe in the midst of political upheaval.
Varinka, a peasant girl in Russia, is thrust into Sofya’s world as a nanny, providing a stark contrast to the lives of the other two women.
Varinka’s character provides a glimpse into the severe disparities and social unrest brewing in Russia during this era.
The story masterfully intertwines these characters’ lives, detailing their personal struggles as they navigate a world on the precipice of change.
With the outbreak of World War I, their existences are irrevocably changed, setting them on a path marked by loss, hope, resilience, and a deepening of their personal relationships.
Analysis of Key Themes
Exploration of Friendship: One of the major themes woven throughout “Lost Roses” is the enduring power of friendship, notably evidenced in the bond between Eliza and Sofya.
Despite being separated by vast distances and cultural disparities, their friendship becomes a beacon of hope and support, showcasing their shared humanity.
The deep friendship between Eliza and Sofya transcends societal norms and geopolitical boundaries, as Eliza extends a helping hand to Sofya’s family when they are severely impacted by the war.
This enduring bond between the two women, amidst the turmoil of war, offers a potent commentary on the importance and resilience of interpersonal relationships.
On the other hand, Sofya and Varinka share a more complex relationship, one that evolves over the course of the story.
Their interaction reflects the complexities of the human condition with each character having their unique motivations, loyalties, and survival instincts; leading to compelling dynamics that provide a thought-provoking dimension to the narrative.
War and its Impact on Society: “Lost Roses” unflinchingly presents the harsh realities of World War I and its effect on individuals and society.
The war serves as a backdrop that irrevocably alters the lives of each character.
The contrast between the gilded life of Sofya before the war and the dire struggles she faces during the conflict provides a stark portrayal of war’s transformative impact.
The changes the characters undergo, the difficult choices they must make, and the trials they endure, serve to highlight the drastic effects of the war on their personal lives.
Martha Hall Kelly doesn’t shy away from depicting the harsh realities of war, making “Lost Roses” an evocative exploration of humanity in the face of adversity.
Class Divide and Social Inequality: Kelly brilliantly portrays the stark contrast between the different social classes through the characters of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka.
Their experiences reflect the class divides and social inequalities prevalent during the period.
Sofya, an aristocrat, and Varinka, a peasant, experience the war and its aftermath in markedly different ways. Their divergent paths underscore the stark realities of social stratification.
The upheaval brought by the war also acts as a catalyst, further exposing and exacerbating these social inequalities.
Author’s Writing Style
Martha Hall Kelly’s writing style in “Lost Roses” is both immersive and compelling.
She employs a multi-perspective narrative, allowing readers to experience the unfolding events through the eyes of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka.
This storytelling method provides a well-rounded view of the era and its events, adding depth and complexity to the narrative.
Kelly skillfully employs a rich descriptive language that vividly brings to life the settings and characters, transporting readers into the turbulent world of the early 20th century.
Her meticulous research is evident in the historical accuracy of the novel, making “Lost Roses” an engaging blend of fact and fiction.
The pacing of the novel is well-executed, with a delicate balance of character development, plot progression, and historical exposition.
The complexity of the characters and their evolving relationships keep readers invested in the narrative, making “Lost Roses” a captivating read.
Personal Response and Evaluation
Reading “Lost Roses” was a powerful experience that lingered long after I turned the final page.
The book pulled me into a turbulent era, introducing me to complex characters whose lives were forever altered by the winds of change.
Each character’s narrative tugged at different emotional chords.
I admired Eliza for her compassion and tenacity, felt empathy for Sofya as she grappled with the harsh realities of war and loss, and understood Varinka’s desperation born out of social inequity.
The vividness of their experiences made the historical events they lived through all the more tangible and thought-provoking.
The novel’s strengths lie in its well-researched historical context, multi-dimensional characters, and the poignant themes it explores.
However, there were moments when the story’s pacing felt slow, particularly during certain sections of Eliza’s narrative.
Despite this, the beautifully layered storytelling and the intricate weaving of the characters’ lives ultimately made the journey worthwhile.
“Lost Roses” not only offered an engaging read but also invited contemplation about the effects of war, social inequalities, and the enduring power of friendships.
It was a stark reminder of how the human spirit can endure even in the face of severe adversity.
Comparison with Kelly’s Other Works
If you’ve read Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel, “Lilac Girls,” you’ll find familiar threads in “Lost Roses.”
Both books delve into historical events through the lens of strong, complex women facing extraordinary circumstances.
However, “Lost Roses,” set during World War I and acting as a prequel, presents a unique perspective by exploring an earlier generation’s experiences.
Kelly’s rich, detailed storytelling is a common strength in both novels.
Her ability to weave historical fact with fiction results in immersive narratives that not only educate but also deeply move readers.
Both novels share similar themes; resilience in the face of adversity, friendship, and the impacts of war and display Kelly’s penchant for writing compelling historical fiction.
However, the two novels differ in terms of character dynamics and narrative scope.
“Lost Roses” offers a broader geographic perspective, moving between America and Russia, and tackles more directly the issue of the class divide, making it distinct from “Lilac Girls.”
Overall, while “Lost Roses” stands strong on its own merits, reading it alongside “Lilac Girls” allows for a deeper appreciation of Kelly’s ability to illuminate lesser-known corners of history through her memorable characters and captivating storytelling.
In conclusion, Martha Hall Kelly’s “Lost Roses” is a masterful piece of historical fiction that delves deep into the human experience during a time of great turmoil.
The intertwined stories of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka provide a moving exploration of friendship, resilience, and the enduring human spirit in the face of adversity.
Despite moments of slower pacing, the novel’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses, making it an engaging read that lingers long after the final page is turned.
The poignant themes, well-crafted characters, and meticulously researched historical backdrop combine to make “Lost Roses” a highly recommendable book.
In the landscape of historical fiction, “Lost Roses,” along with its predecessor “Lilac Girls,” marks Martha Hall Kelly as a remarkable storyteller who has the ability to illuminate corners of history through her vivid characters and compelling narratives.
Regardless of your usual reading preferences, “Lost Roses” is a novel that offers a unique, thought-provoking journey worth embarking on.
Rating a book is often a subjective process, influenced by personal preferences, experiences, and expectations.
That being said, “Lost Roses” by Martha Hall Kelly manages to meet and exceed on numerous fronts, making it a book that stands out in the realm of historical fiction.
In terms of the plot, I would give it an 8.5 out of 10.
Kelly skillfully crafts a narrative that balances historical events with personal stories of resilience, friendship, and survival.
The intertwined stories of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka are engaging and thought-provoking, though at times the pacing of the novel can slow down.
Character development is a solid 9 out of 10. Each of the three main characters is complex, well-drawn, and evolves significantly over the course of the novel.
They have distinct voices and perspectives, and their interactions provide depth and nuance to the narrative.
Historical accuracy in “Lost Roses” deserves a 9.5 out of 10. Kelly’s extensive research and attention to detail bring the era of World War I vividly to life.
The descriptions of societal norms, political events, and everyday life in America and Russia during this tumultuous period are intricately woven into the narrative, providing an immersive reading experience.
The writing style of Martha Hall Kelly is expressive and immersive, deserving a 9 out of 10.
Her skillful use of language paints a vivid picture of the characters, the era, and the various settings.
The choice to tell the story from three different perspectives enhances the depth and complexity of the narrative, despite occasionally slowing the pacing.
Considering the emotional impact, “Lost Roses” scores a 9 out of 10.
The novel stirs a range of emotions, from joy to despair, hope to fear.
It’s a testament to Kelly’s writing that the reader can feel deeply connected to the characters and invested in their journeys.
On an overall scale, “Lost Roses” receives a 9 out of 10.
Despite minor pacing issues, the novel is a compelling read that offers a rich tapestry of history, humanity, and resilience.
It’s a memorable book that encourages reflection on past events and their influence on our present, making it a standout piece of historical fiction.