The Book of Lost Names

Written by Kristin Harmel
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

The author of The Winemaker’s Wife has penned another phenomenal story set in France during World War II. The Book of Lost Names is an utterly captivating novel about strong women and their often-unsung contributions to the war. Based on a true story, the novel recounts how one woman’s incredible skills as a forger enabled her to save thousands of Jewish children from concentration camps.

Eva never told her son about her past; like the children she saved, she shed her identity years earlier in the war, moved to America from France, and began the arduous process of rebuilding and forgetting. But when she reads that someone has uncovered a rare book that had been looted by the Nazis and brought to Berlin, she is compelled to go there, identify the book and confront her past.

The book is primarily set in the World War II era. After her father is taken away by the Nazis, Eva and her mother plan an escape from Poland to Switzerland by way of a free zone in a quiet French town. But once in France, Eva is swept up in an underground forgery operation, to the extreme consternation of her mother. With her art skills, Eva is able to create new identities for Jewish children so they can fool the Germans. She and Remy, with whom she collaborates, come up with an intricate coding system to record the real names of the children whose identities they are changing, so that their true identities would never be lost. However, Eva does so at great peril to herself, her mother, and to the rest of the people involved.

Equally heartwarming and mesmerizing, this is a beautifully rendered and painstakingly researched story about the courage of a true-life heroine under impossible circumstances.