The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

The Book of Lost Names Book Cover The Book of Lost Names
Kirstin Harmel
YA, WWII Historical Fiction
Gallery Books
July 21, 2020
Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook, Audio CD
400

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.

A detailed glimpse at history through a fictional tale…

Kristin Harmel, in her poignant and brutally realistic fictional tale The Book of Lost Names, shares with her readers the horrific experience of Jews in Nazi occupied France and the unsung heroes who found amazing ways to save countless Jewish children and adults from certain death in the concentration camps.

Sometimes understanding a book is better explained in reading the author’s own words as to why they wrote it. I would like to share Kristin’s explanation for writing The Book of Lost Names as found in the Author’s Notes; while researching her previous novel, The Winemaker’s Wife she encountered references to the the role that forgers, people who used “their artistic and scientific ingenuity to produce convincing documents that allowed innocent people to survive,” played in the Nazi Resistance.  A New York Times article about the Nazi looting of books and the fact that many of these stolen books are still in German libraries made her realize that she could “write a novel about forgery, framed by a story about a looted book that meant everything to someone… forgery techniques, Nazi looting… all wrapped up in a story about love, loss, courage, and the highest stakes.”

 

The true talent of a historical fiction author lies in their insatiable curiosity to investigate and their ability to translate that information into a factual yet fascinating and captivating story.  Kristin is such an author.  The Book of Lost Names is detailed in facts yet riveting in its storytelling.  It literally transports you to the dark time of the Holocaust where you participate in the disbelief, shock and fear that Eva, a French born Jew. experiences.  At the cusp of adulthood, Eva should be looking forward to all of the wonders of becoming an adult but is instead thrust into a situation where she becomes responsible for the fates of innumerable innocent lives when she stumbles on Resistance fighters who convince her to help them forge documents. This wonderfully crafted story is told as a flashback; Eva’s elderly self exhumes her past when she learns that the book, which holds the original names (in code) of the children whose identities she changed, still exists.  Her decision to travel to Germany to claim the book leads to revisiting the events of her past life under Nazi occupation.

For many, the story of the Holocaust does not have a happily ever after ending.  Eva’s story and others in The Book of Lost Names, while filled with heartbreak, is also a testament to the strength, courage, and love that still can exist in the midst of horror and suffering.  It is also a reminder that there are those still among us, who may appear to be old and meek, but who posses a wealth of knowledge and experience that will disappear when they are gone.  The Lost Book of Names is a fascinating and excellent tribute to unsung heroes of the Holocaust and a must read for all ages.

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