The Lost Wife

Written by Alyson Richman

Lenka and Josef enjoy a pleasant, easy existence in beautiful, pre-WWII Prague until they are separated by the Nazi occupation. The dreams of the young newlyweds are shattered when Josef is forced to flee to the USA while Lenka, unwilling to abandon her family, is transported to the ghetto of Terezin.

Safe in the USA, Josef marries and becomes a successful obstetrician, but clings to the memory of Lenka. Lenka, though, must banish Josef from her mind if she is to live through her atrocious experiences in Terezin and, later, Auschwitz. Both convinced the other has perished, Lenka and Josef are shocked when, decades later, a chance meeting reunites them.

With an artist’s eye, the author uses bright colours to contrast elegant pre-war Prague with the camps’ dark and dismal shades. She shows how the people’s love of art and music became their crutch for survival, demonstrating the irony of the Nazis’ systematic destruction of these very same intellectual gifts.

The story is an intense exploration of love on many different levels: love of art and music, love between couples, families and friends, and how each relationship is sculpted out of personal education, tragedy and time. The author demonstrates how this power of love can sustain one through shocking experiences.

The Lost Wife is also a sad and depressing Holocaust tale. Both main characters are empathetic, as they struggle through their separate lives, though at times Lenka and Josef tend to sound like the same person. The reader knows the outcome of the story from the start, which steals much of the tension and renders the ending a little of an anti-climax.

I found this novel engrossing, touching and thought-provoking, and feel it could benefit even more from further editing, notably word repetitions and some misuse of obstetric terminology.