Audience: Historical Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Author: Kristin Harmel
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: July 21st, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads
Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.
The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?
As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.
An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.
I had a lot of up and down with this one, but by the end I was really invested in getting some kind of ending I could be satisfied with. And even though it took awhile, I loved the way this ended which solidified a great book for me.
One of the things I struggled with was Eva’s Mother. I could understand the grief and despair she was feeling, but kept being angered at how much she taking out on Eva. There was never a chance for them to truly reconcile and it hurt my soul watching the relationship slowly deteriorate because of atrocities outside of their control.
World War II historical fiction is common in the genre. While sometimes I find the stories repetitive, I thought this one took on new aspects. I liked the focus on the children and of a Jewish woman working to forge papers to help those around her. Not to mention the romance sub-plot thrown in was SO SWEET. I mean, definitely tore my heart out, but also the development was spot on. The action and movement kept me interested and I enjoyed reading this as an audio book. Even when you could kind of see things coming, the whole of the plot still took me by surprise.
Overall audience notes:
- Historical fiction [WW2]
- Language: very little
- Romance: kisses, one little detailed open scene
- Trigger/Content Warnings: loss of loved ones, depictions of World War 2, suicide (a small paragraph with depiction of method)