Title: The Book of Lost Names
Author: Kristin Harmel
Genres: Historical, WW2
Publication Date: July 21 2020 in the US, April 19th 2021 in the UK
Source: Netgalley (thanks to Welbeck publishing)
In 1942, Eva is forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children escaping to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva realises she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember their own identities.
When Rémy disappears and the resistance cell they work for is betrayed, the records they keep in The Book of Lost Names become even more crucial to remembering the truth...
A present day discovery of the book leaves researchers fascinated by its origins and desperate to decipher its codes. Only Eva holds the answer but will she have the strength to face old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?
High expectations can often destroy what would have been a good read. It started so well and I found myself strongly reminded of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah but by the time we reached the middle the shine had worn off.
I so wanted to adore this book. I was engaged from the first chapter as it opens with a first person account from elderly librarian, still working at 83 despite the disapproval of her colleges. The next chapter and most of the book is written in the third person and set in Nazi occupied France with occasional short chapters in the contemporary timeline.
Even though the heroic story of Eva is very interesting I never felt much of an emotional connection to her. For me the writing lacked something, it was all a bit dry.
There is a love story in among all this heroism but it seemed a bit sterile and I never really understood what she saw in him. It was almost as if editors advised her to include a romance in and tried to shoehorn it in.
Eva’s Jewish heritage seemed a bit incongruous and the character of Eva’s Mother seemed to be almost a caricature of an older Jewish woman and a bad one at that. I never felt much consistency with how Eva felt towards her faith and it didn’t feel particularly genuine. For instance at one point she looks at Jesus on the cross and says a prayer, would a Jew be inspired by a christian symbol? I would be interested to know what Jewish readers would think.
The book does have a strong plot however, there were plenty of twists and turns to make this an entertaining read and the ending was a saving grace but overall not a book I would read again and I won’t be reading any of her other work, sorry.
However mine is an unpopular opinion and that most people who read and reviewed this book on Goodreads don’t agree with. It has an average rating of 4.36 stars with over 40 thousand ratings but I can’t love a book that didn’t quite work for me.
Suitable For: Adults and Older Teenagers
Violence: The threat of violence is always under the surface but no actual violence is shown.
Drug Reference: None
A bit of a disappointment. It started so well but then lost it’s heart somewhere in the second act.
Kristin Harmel has written a ton of books, most of which have been very well received and many of them are set in WW2 France. She writes a book a year at the moment.
She comes from a journalistic background, working as a sportswriter and moving on to write for many different magazines over the years.
She lives in Orlando, with her husband and son.