This post contains affiliate links. I’ve read so many books that take place during World War II and the Holocaust that sometimes I wonder if there is any new information to write about. And then I read a book like The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel that reminds me there are still huge facets of the war that I know nothing about. When you consider a war that involved millions of people, there are millions of stories to be told. This book introduced me to a topic I hadn’t thought much of before–the forgers of the war–as well as a topic I knew very little about–Germans looting books throughout Europe.
About the Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
Eva, a librarian in her 80s, lives in Florida and has told no one in the United States that she once worked as a forger in France during World War II. However, her past confronts her when she sees a man in The New York Times with her book, The Book of Lost Names, that she lost track of in 1944.
In 1942, Eva, a Jew, flees Paris with her mother after her father is taken in a round up. She ends up in a small French town. Thanks to her skills making her own and her mother’s forged documents, she soon finds herself swept up in the Resistance, forging documents for hundreds of Jewish children making their way to Switzerland and freedom. She and her fellow forger, Remy, create a code in a book to keep track of every child’s birth name and assumed name in the hopes that they can help the children reunite with their families when the war is over. Eva thinks of this book as The Book of Lost Names.
I enjoyed this book immensely. However, I did have to suspend my disbelief because had this story been real, I doubt that Eva would have been so lucky so many times. The end was a true tear jerker, but again, I had to suspend my disbelief.
One minor note is that Eva’s mother annoyed me. Once they escaped Paris, she was constantly angry and rude to Eva. I understand that she would have felt a whole array of feelings since she was ripped from her home, she didn’t know if her husband was alive or not, and she had anxiety about staying in France. However, she literally showed no tenderness to her daughter. Her character felt flat to me.
I don’t usually prefer fiction books about the Holocaust. However, this book opened my eyes to yet another angle of the war that I hadn’t thought of. I’ve gone on to request almost all the books that the author recommends in her author’s notes. I hope I can learn more about the people who forged documents during the war and saved so many lives.
I give The Book of Lost Names 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.