Summary and book reviews of The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

The Book of Lost Names

by Kristin Harmel

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel X
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2020, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    May 25, 2021, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Will Heath
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About this Book

Book Summary

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 New York Times bestselling author of the "epic and heart-wrenching World War II tale" (Alyson Noel, #1 New York Times bestselling author) The Winemaker's Wife.

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.

Chapter One
May 2005

It's a Saturday morning, and I'm midway through my shift at the Winter Park Public Library when I see it.

The book I last laid eyes on more than six decades ago.

The book I believed had vanished forever.

The book that meant everything to me.

It's staring out at me from a photograph in the New York Times, which someone has left open on the returns desk. The world goes silent as I reach for the newspaper, my hand trembling nearly as much as it did the last time I held the book. "It can't be," I whisper.

I gaze at the picture. A man in his seventies looks back at me, his snowy hair sparse and wispy, his eyes froglike behind bulbous glasses.

"Sixty Years After End of World War II, German Librarian Seeks to Reunite Looted Books with Rightful Owners," declares the headline, and I want to cry out to the man in the image that I am the rightful owner of the book he's holding, the faded leather-bound volume with the peeling bottom right corner and the gilded spine bearing ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. On page 16, Mamusia tells Eva, "If we shrink from them, if we lose our goodness, we let them erase us. We cannot do that, Eva. We cannot." Compare her stance here with how she behaves in Aurignon, after Tatuś is taken by the Germans. How does her outlook change? Rereading this and knowing that Mamusia felt this way before tragedy struck, how do your opinions of her and her reaction to Eva's work as a forger change? Do you believe Joseph when he tells Eva that Mamusia said she was proud of the work Eva did to help keep children from being erased?
  2. The beginning of Eva's nightmare falls on the night her father is taken away and she is forced to watch it happen in silence. Do you think she did the right thing by keeping quiet, or should...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Every character in the novel is well-rounded and clearly defined, if a little one-dimensional. The plot is a bit reminiscent of a Disney movie, however; the main characters are good people with small interpersonal dramas and there is a looming villainous presence. Nothing here is narratively complicated or heavy, even given the wartime setting and high political stakes. Despite these gripes, The Book of Lost Names is a pure kind of novel. It works spectacularly as a love story; its characters are lovable and easy to bond with. The highs and lows all hit hard because of the tight pacing...continued

Full Review Members Only (632 words).

(Reviewed by Will Heath).

Media Reviews

People (20 Best Books to Read this Summer)
A heart-stopping tale of survival and heroism centered on a female forger who risks everything to help Jewish children escape Nazi-occupied France.

Booklist
Harmel's previous historical novels, including The Winemaker's Wife, illuminate heartbreakingly real but forgotten stories from World War II, blended with a dash of suspense and romance, and this does the same. Recommend to fans of romantic historical fiction, including All the Ways We Said Goodbye

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Harmel brilliantly imagines the life of a young Polish-French Jewish woman during the depths of WWII...Harmel movingly illustrates Eva's courage to risk her own life for others, and all of the characters are portrayed with realistic compassion. This thoughtful work will touch readers with its testament to the endurance of hope.

Author Blurb Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of Sold on a Monday
With meticulous research and an assured hand, Kristin Harmel once again spotlights French Resistance figures of the Second World War, unique heroes whose bravery and immeasurable sacrifices are too often lost to history. The Book of Lost Names is a fascinating, heartrending page-turner that, like the real-life forgers who inspired the novel, should never be forgotten. A riveting historical tale that I devoured in a single sitting.

Author Blurb Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue
Not since The Nightingale have I finished a book and been so choked with emotion. Harmel was inspired by the true story of French citizens who fought against evil during WWII with courage and conviction. She shines a brilliant light on those who had their identities erased and lives destroyed, on a country and its people torn apart, and young women like Eva, who risked their lives with everyday acts of epic heroism. Sweeping and magnificent.

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Beyond the Book

Real-Life Forgers of World War II

Adolfo and Sarah Kaminsky looking at photographsWhile Eva, the gifted young Jewish forger in Kristin Harmel's The Book of Lost Names, may be a fictional character, the work she did and the risks she took were realities during World War II. Two of the more notable forgers — heroes who saved hundreds of Jewish lives — were Adolfo Kaminsky (1925-) and Alice Cohn (1914-2000).

Adolfo Kaminsky's story is a fascinating one. A Jew living in occupied France, Kaminsky joined the French Resistance as a forger at age 17. It is estimated that he and his fellow Resistance members saved the lives of 14,000 Jewish people using forged documents. As his biography (written by his daughter Sarah) chronicles, Kaminsky didn't stop at the end of the war. He continued to support causes all over ...

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