The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel is a World War II historical fiction novel. It starts in 1985 when 85-year-old Eva Traube Abrams is shelving books at the Florida library where she works. She sees a magazine article with a picture of a German librarian holding a book that had been confiscated by the Nazis. The article explains the library is trying to return as many stolen books as possible. Eva immediately recognizes what she had called The Book of Lost Names.
During World War II Eva reluctantly becomes a document forger in Aurignon, a small French mountain town in the free zone. Eva’s first forgery partner, Remy, created a code for entering the names of the Jewish children that are being smuggled into Switzerland using the false identities they created. Eva carefully wrote the coded names into the pages of the 18th-century religious text that is pictured in the magazine article.
The story tells of sacrifice, love of country, mother-daughter relationships, heroism, romance, and betrayals. Eva falls in love with Remy, but they are separated when he goes to work for the underground. There is a constant tension in Eva’s life due to the threat of discovery. We know that Eva survived the war, but what about those she loved?
I really thought I was going to love this book, but I only liked it. It has a 4.36 Goodreads rating, with many five star reviews. It was also one of the Books of the Month on the Simon & Schuster Book Club favorites Facebook page. The reason I didn’t love it was because there was too much inner monologue by Eva. She constantly regretted decisions and repeatedly asked herself “Am I a good Jew?”, “Am I a good daughter?”, “Am I wrong to fall in love with a Catholic?”, and “Why didn’t I say certain things?” etc. On the positive side, the book was well researched, and I learned about how documents were forged. There were some good dramatic scenes, and the ending surprised me.
3-stars for me. This could be a good Book Club book especially when it comes to discussing Eva’s relationship with her parents.