I read Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly to discuss at my local Barnes & Noble’s book club last night. Kelly continues her historical fiction series focused on a member in an earlier generation of the real family also depicted in her debut Lilac Girls. The story brings Russia circa 100 years ago to life with its depictions of the luxurious places and wealth. A fellow book clubber who visited many of the same sights affirmed the descriptions did them justice. However, we all agreed we couldn’t relate to the characters’ wealth what with their handful of houses spread across countries (in response to a discussion guide question we ultimately reworded to generate better responses). The story covers several places and people, an aspect that at times hurt the story. Though a plot driven novel, switching between three main perspectives made some of the build up fall short, sometimes leaving the reader mentally catching up instead of moving forward still engrossed in the story. As a generally character driven fan, the overall setup made it feel less deep than I anticipated and desired. However, that lighter feel made the Bolshevik revolution and some of the horrors witnessed less heavy, and I appreciated not dwelling on depictions of the unfortunate deaths. I learned a little more about Russian history without getting bogged down with details or war weight. The story focuses on females who show strength in their survival despite terrible circumstances. Yet we could have learned so much more if they had fought to thrive.
Regarding Kelly’s approach to this series, I like how she takes the stories backward in time for historical periods rather than forward. Covering the Bolshevik revolution and next the Civil War era gets us to times not depicted as often as World War II (like Lilac Girls).