Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 416 pages
Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 50 minutes
First Published: 2020
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As a graduate student in 1942, Eva fled Paris after her father, a Polish Jew, was arrested. Settling in a mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identities for Jewish children with the help of a Catholic priest and a handsome forger named Rémy. Falling in love with Rémy, she finds a way to record the children’s real names, and decades later, must come to terms with the betrayal of her resistance cell.
I feel like I’ve read so much World War II historical fiction that it’s hard to impress me anymore. Yet, I found The Book of Lost Names to be compulsively readable. Eva’s journey and struggles felt relatable while still bringing up deeper themes of identity and family expectations. Although not the most realistic or lyrical book, The Book of Lost Names hit the spot for a quick engrossing read with all the highs and lows of a fun period piece.
Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books when her eyes lock on a photograph in the New York Times. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in more than sixty 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 does she have the strength to revisit old memories?
As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris and find refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, where she began 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.
Quotes from The Book of Lost Names
Once you’ve fallen in love with books, their presence can make you feel at home anywhere, even in places where you shouldn’t belong.
Remember that God’s plan for you might be different than the plan you have for yourself.
You can’t judge a person by their language or their place of origin—though it seems that each new generation insists upon learning that lesson for itself.
Life turns on the decisions we make, the single moments that transform everything.
Hope was a dangerous thief, stealing her today’s for a tomorrow that would never come.
About Kristin Harmel
Kristin Harmel is the author of a dozen novels including The Book of Lost Names, The Forest of Vanishing Stars, The Winemaker’s Wife, The Room on Rue Amélie, The Paris Daughter, and The Sweetness of Forgetting. She is also the cofounder and cohost of the popular web series, Friends and Fiction. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida. Visit the author’s website →