The Lost Wife
I struggled with a review that would do this gorgeous book justice. Richman takes what could be a sorrowful story and renders it human through her elegant prose and storytelling.
Lenka, a young art student, and Josef, a medical student, meet in Prague in the last golden days before the Second World War and fall in love. Neither their hopeful relationship nor their vibrant city is destined to last, though, as the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia tears them apart only a week after their wedding.
Although Josef believes Lenka died in the war, he doesn’t forget her. And, struggling to survive in the Nazi ghetto at Terezín, Lenka also holds to the memory of their brief marriage. It isn’t until sixty years later that a chance encounter in New York City reaffirms that faith in first love.
Richman masterfully wields her prose. She jumps between time, tense, and point-of-view, but without ever losing control of her story. The reader feels each blush, each tentative kiss, each heartbreak as the couple is separated. Beautiful writing aside, intriguing premise aside, Richman tells a unique story. Not just a Holocaust story of survival, it’s also about the survival of art and of self. Lenka paints idyllic souvenirs for the Nazis, while at the same time paints in secret the true conditions of the ghetto. Through her art, she’s able to keep heart, even while missing her love, her freedom, and the world she once knew.