Lost Roses (Kelly)

Lost Roses 
Martha Hall Kelly, 2019
Random House
448 pp.

The million-copy bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. Now Lost Roses, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline’s mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.

It is 1914, and the world has been on the brink of war so often, many New Yorkers treat the subject with only passing interest.

Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. 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: the church with the interior covered in jeweled mosaics, the Rembrandts at the tsar’s Winter Palace, the famous ballet.

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 fortune-teller’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 and aristocratic countryside estates to the avenues of Paris where a society of fallen Russian emigres live to the mansions of Long Island, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways.

In her newest powerful tale told through female-driven perspectives, Martha Hall Kelly celebrates the unbreakable bonds of women’s friendship, especially during the darkest days of history. (From the publisher.)

Visit the author's website for background on Lost Roses.

Author Bio
Martha Hall Kelly is a native New Englander who splits her time between Atlanta, Georgia; New York City; and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. She spent a number of years in the advertising world as a copy writer before turning to writing historical fiction.  Lilac Girls, her bestselling debut was published in 2016, which was followed in 2019 with that novel's prequel, Lost Roses.

She has three (mostly grown) children. (Adapted from Atlanta History Center.)

Book Reviews
Inspired by true events, just like its predecessor, and just as well-researched, Lost Roses is a remarkable story and another testament to female strength. This sweeping epic will thrill and delight fans of Lilac Girls and readers of historical fiction alike.

[L]ively, well-researched…. Some story lines strain credibility (coincidences and melodramatic cliffhangers abound)…. Nevertheless, Kelly memorably portrays three indomitable women who triumph over hardships and successfully brings a complex and turbulent time in history to life.
Publishers Weekly

Sofya has by far the most compelling story line, and some readers may get restless when reading about Eliza's relatively low-stakes activities.… Overall, this novel builds to an emotionally satisfying conclusion, and readers who loved Lilac Girls will likely be keen to learn more about the Ferridays. —Mara Bandy Fass, Champaign P.L., IL
Library Journal

(Starred review) Epic.… [Martha Hall] Kelly’s gift is bringing to life and to light the untold stories of women and families far away from the war front yet deeply affected by the decisions of leaders and the efforts of fighters. Fans of historical fiction… will want to clear their calendars when Lost Roses comes out.

Though the writing is rich and vivid with detail about the period, the storytelling is quite a bit slower than in Kelly’s captivating debut, and both the plot and relationship development feel secondary to the historical scene-setting. A nuanced tale that speaks to the strength of women.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. You meet three very different heroines in Lost Roses: Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka. Who did you identify with most and why?

2. Mother-daughter relationships play a vital role in Lost Roses. How did these relationships impact Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka’s lives? Compare Eliza’s mother to Varinka’s. Were they both good mothers? In what ways? How did Sofya’s stepmother, Agnessa, affect Sofya and Luba emotionally? How did their mother’s legacy play a continuing role in their lives?

3. Caroline Ferriday, the protagonist of Lilac Girls, is a teenager in Lost Roses. Eliza’s real-life relationship with her daughter Caroline evolves over the course of the book. What did you like/not like about their portrayal?

4. Luba, whose name symbolizes love, is a key character in Lost Roses. Did you feel she was an important character in the story? What do you think of the author’s decision to open and close the novel with Luba’s voice?

5. Sofya had to make some impossible choices in the novel—choosing to leave her family, and then her child, in order to try to save them. How did you feel about her decisions? Did you agree with them? Why or why not?

6. Varinka and Taras have a complicated relationship. Did you find it compelling? Do you believe she loved Max? Why or why not? Were you shocked by the twist in her ending?

7. How did you feel when Eliza had a second chance to experience love with Merrill? Did you believe in their friendship and then love affair?

8. Were you satisfied with Sofya and Cook’s reunion? How do you imagine their relationship evolved after the novel ended?

9. Is there a particular scene in Lost Roses that has stayed with you? What will you remember most about this novel?

10. Did you learn new things about this period in history? Do you plan to read more—fiction or nonfiction—about the Russian Revolution?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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