Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Lost Roses

It is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so many times, many New Yorker’s treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanov’s. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s Imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household. On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming she fears the worst for her best friend.

From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg to the avenues of Paris and the society of fallen Russian emigre’s who live there, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways, taking readers on a breathtaking ride through a momentous time in history.

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Lost Roses was a bit of a disappointing read for me, since I had loved Lilac Girls so much. It’s not that this novel was bad, I just couldn’t connect as much to it.

In the same format as Lilac Girls, the novel follows Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka as they each have their lives impacted by WWI. I found that there were a lot of similarities between the characters of Lost Roses and Lilac Girls. First, there is the obvious connection between Caroline and her mother, Eliza. In their respective novels, each woman uses their wealth and resources to help those in need. Since they are in New York, there is a bit of a disconnect between them and what is happening overseas.

Next is Sofya and Kasia (from Lilac Girls). These characters are the ones that are right in the centre and are the ones that have their lives most impacted by the war. Kasia was sent to the concentration camp and Sofya lost her home and family. Some of the things that Sofya went through on her journey to Paris, I found a tad unrealistic and far fetched.

Lastly is Varinka and Herta (German doctor from Lilac Girls). These are the characters that I was most confused about. Both of these characters start with good intentions and then make questionable and bad decisions that impact the other characters. I wish there was more insight to these characters and why they made the decisions that they did.

Overall, it was an average novel that had a very slow start. I didn’t start enjoying the novel until Sofya was on her journey to Paris and the war was over.

3 calculators out of a potential 5. To me, the two novels don’t compare. Lilac Girls is leagues ahead of Lost Roses, but they are both stories that should be told and taught.


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