Martha
Bestselling Historical Novelist
NYT Bestseller
Travels from: New York NY

“Her compassion, expertise, and willingness to share her experiences made this a very special event… We can’t wait to see her again!” – UConn OLLI, 2021

Martha Hall Kelly is a native New Englander, and author of Lilac Girls, which was an instant New York Times bestseller the week it was published in April 2016, and went on to sell two million copies. This beautiful debut novel is based on the true story of 72 Polish women who were imprisoned and experimented on at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, and how Caroline Ferriday, an American philanthropist and former actress brought them to the US for rehabilitation and the trip of a lifetime. Martha researched the story for over ten years; Publishers Weekly lauded it as “a page-turner, demonstrating the tests and triumphs civilians faced during war, complemented by Kelly’s vivid description of history and excellent characters.”

Once the paperback stayed on the NYT list for 54 weeks, and became published in fifty countries she wrote two more novels: Lost Roses about Caroline’s mother, and Sunflower Sisters about her great grandmother, which also became Instant NY Times bestsellers. Her latest novel, The Golden Doves, about two female former spies who track down an infamous Nazi doctor in the aftermath of WWII, arrives in bookstores April 18th, 2023.

Martha grew up in Massachusetts and now splits her time between Connecticut and New York City. She holds a degree in Journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University and a Master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School.

Sunflower Sisters

Ballantine Books |
Novel

Georgeanna “Georgey” Woolsey isn’t meant for the world of lavish parties and the demure attitudes of women of her stature. So when war ignites the nation, Georgey follows her passion for nursing during a time when doctors considered women on the battlefront a bother. In proving them wrong, she and her sister Eliza venture from New York to Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg and witness the unparalleled horrors of slavery as they become involved in the war effort.

In the South, Jemma is enslaved on the Peeler Plantation in Maryland, where she lives with her mother and father. Her sister, Patience, is enslaved on the plantation next door, and both live in fear of LeBaron, an abusive overseer who tracks their every move. When Jemma is sold by the cruel plantation mistress Anne-May at the same time the Union army comes through, she sees a chance to finally escape—but only by abandoning the family she loves.

Anne-May is left behind to run Peeler Plantation when her husband joins the Union army and her cherished brother enlists with the Confederates. In charge of the household, she uses the opportunity to follow her own ambitions and is drawn into a secret Southern network of spies, finally exposing herself to the fate she deserves.

Inspired by true accounts, Sunflower Sisters provides a vivid, detailed look at the Civil War experience, from the barbaric and inhumane plantations, to a war-torn New York City, to the horrors of the battlefield. It’s a sweeping story of women caught in a country on the brink of collapse, in a society grappling with nationalism and unthinkable racial cruelty, a story still so relevant today.

Lost Roses

Ballantine Books |
Novel

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 émigrés 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.

Lilac Girls

Thorndike Press |
Novel

“NEW YORK TIMES “BESTSELLER For readers of “The Nightingale” and “Sarah’s Key, ” inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this powerful debut novel reveals an incredible story of love, redemption, and terrible secrets that were hidden for decades.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939 and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbruck, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

In “Lilac Girls, ” Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of unsung women and their quest for love, freedom, and second chances. It is a story that will keep readers bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final pages.

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LILAC GIRLS: the true story behind the global bestseller

Discover the story behind Lilac Girls from inception to publication, including the research travel to Lublin, Poland, the birthplace of the women known as the Rabbits, and to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp Memorial in Furstenberg, Germany to meet the Rabbits. Can be customized to include all four books. Available with PowerPoint presentation.

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Strong Women in History

The Real Women behind Lilac Girls, Lost Roses, Sunflower Sisters and the Golden Doves

A talk focusing on the real women behind all four books, including three generations of Woolsey/Ferriday women from Caroline Ferriday to her great grandmother Jane Eliza. Available with PowerPoint presentation.

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The True Story Behind the Golden Doves: From Operation Paperclip to Tracing the Nazi Ratline

A talk focusing on Martha’s fourth book The Golden Doves and shares her research travel to Italy unearthing long buried secrets of how the Nazis funneled fugitives to South America and other countries of refuge. Available with PowerPoint presentation.

Martha is happy to customize a combination of any of the elements above.

Introducing LILAC GIRLS: A Novel by Martha Hall Kelly

LOST ROSES Trailer

Book Club Resources and Kits

Martha’s Events

Martha’s Blog

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Instant New York Times Bestsellers | Lilac Girls, Lost Roses and Sunflower Sisters
54 weeks on the NY Times bestseller list | Lilac Girls
IndieNext List
One Million Copies Sold
French Grand Prix for Foreign Fiction 2022 | Sunflower Sisters
Library Reads Hall of Fame
Three Indiebound Bestsellers

Media Kit

By clicking the link below your will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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