Kristin Harmel returns to the blog with another story plucked from history and imagination with
The Book of Lost Names
The second that I’ve read from this author, and the second dealing with the Occupation of Paris and the Resistance fights against the Germans. Told in two perspectives: that of an eighty-odd year-old Eva and her twenty-year old self, the story begins with a librarian in Berlin seeking to return looted books to their original owners. The book mentioned and shown is Eva’s very own Book of Lost Names, one that held secrets and the histories of many Jewish children and refugees. Eva books a flight to ‘reclaim’ the book, and despite having never shared her story with her son or now deceased husband, she explains her story and her part in the many lives that she touched.
1942, the restrictions on Jews in Paris are ever-increasing, and rumors are circulating that foreign-born Jews are due to be rounded up and ‘deported’. As the daughter of Polish immigrants, despite their having lived in Paris for over a quarter-century, Eva’s father is arrested and taken as Eva and her mother are watching a neighbor’s children. Thus begins a path for Eva that was fueled by both her heart and her talent, as she starts by forging documents for herself and her mother, with plans to escape to Switzerland to wait for her father’s release.
But her skills are noticed, and she is recruited into the Resistance cell in the small town: a cell that is responsible for creating new identities for children and others fleeing persecution. With her first ‘forging’ partner being Remy, a committed patriot for France, determined to save everyone he can and her own struggles with her new “identity’ and the fact that many of the papers she is creating are for children under 6, who may not remember their own birth names and thus ending their chances of reuniting with their families, she was determined to make a record so their names – both real and new – are recorded. To keep them safe Remy explains the Fibonacci sequence to her – and they use the sequence and a series of dots, stars and marks to record the names, old and new, for the children. Keeping them ‘known’ if only to the two of them.
I can’t begin to describe how immediate the impact of the young Eva and her personality, and her fascination with books, memories and being ‘recorded’ had, and the instant connection that she engendered. The older Eva with all of her worries, struggles and regrets lays out her own story that is full of danger, adventure and loss, and leaves readers on the edge of their seat more than once. Bringing Eva and the book, along with the secrets it holds and a little twist at the end made this story feel ‘just right’ – like all would be sorted with that ending and everyone got, even after years, the ending and hope they deserved. Impeccably researched with a feeling that the author is, even in fiction, honoring those lost in the war – brings that never forget feeling forward, and lets readers into stories that may not be well-known about the war, and provide a jumping off point that points to resilience, determination and ingenuity in dire circumstances. A favorite read that brings what could be ‘dry’ history into a story that is accessible and hard to put down, grab this book for all those hopeful feelings and to find a new appreciation of the many who tried to battle against the hate and polemic of Hitler.
Title: The Book of Lost Names
Author: Kristin Harmel
Genre: Contemporary Elements, Dual Narration, Friendship, Historic Woman's Fiction, Mystery Elements, Pirates, Romantic Elements, Setting: France, Suspense, Suspense Elements, World War II
Published by: Gallery Books
Published on: 21 July, 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 50 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
Inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II, a young woman with a talent for forgery helps hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis in this unforgettable historical novel from the bestselling author of the “epic and heart-wrenching World War II tale” (#1 New York Times bestselling author Alyson Noel), The Winemaker’s Wife.
Lina Meisel, a retired librarian in Florida, is reading the newspaper one morning when she freezes. Her eyes lock on a photograph 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 Lina remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts stolen 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 Stadtbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Lina 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, Lina was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the shadow of the Alps, 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 Rémi, Lina decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children 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 Rémi disappears.
A gripping, heartfelt 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 copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.