“He had taught her to love reading, one of the greatest gifts a parent could give a child, and in doing so, he had opened the world to her.”Kristin Harmel, The Book of Lost Names
Publisher: Simon & Shuster
Publication year: 2020
Page count: 400
Rating: 4 stars
As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.
If I’m being honest, I was very skeptical of this book. Historical fiction has been really hit or miss for me lately, ad I was not a fan of the other Kristin Harmel novel I read, The Room of Rue Amelie. However, after seeing the amazing reviews and beautiful cover, I decided that this would be worth a try, and I was not disappointed.
This book follows Eva’s perspective from both the 1940s and the early 2000s. One of the biggest misses for me with Kristin’s other novel was the multiple perspectives (I believe there were 3). This one only follows Eva’s perspective. I must admit that I was not too invested in Eva’s story from the early 2000s, just because we didn’t see much of it. I almost wish it would have been left out, even though it does come into play at the end. I just loved reading about Eva during the war.
Eva is a Jewish girl living in Paris when the Nazis occupy France. After her father is taken to Auschwitz, Eva and her mother flee to the French free zone, where Eva starts forging documents to smuggle Jewish children into free Swiss territory. Eva was such a fascinating character to read about. Even though she is obviously such a strong woman, she is flawed and makes mistakes, which makes her real. I also love how the character dives into her relationship with her mother. Eva’s mother is such a complex character who is trying to work through her grief and loss of her husband, home, and religion. She was a heartbreaking character, which made her and Eva’s relationship very complicated. But it also made the story more authentic.
This book was very much plot driven, which I really enjoyed. I feel like at times historical fictions can be slow, but I never felt bored during this book. It honestly sort have read like a YA book. Each scene had a purpose and helped the reader get to the climax of the story quicker. I also liked how the war was at the forefront of this story. In Kristin’s other novel, I felt like I was reading a romance novel with the war taking place in the background of the love story. This was the opposite.
Speaking of romance, I really enjoyed the relationship between Eva and Rémy. It was a slow burn, their relationship blossoming into a romance over the months they worked together. Rémy was not the most memorable character, but I think he played a good love interest and was very sweet. Of course, both Rémy and Eva have the war on their mind, so the romance is not very front and center in this book until the end.
Speaking of the ending, this book definitely ripped my heart out. Although I guessed the big plot twist, there were still so many things that happened that I wasn’t expecting.
All in all, if you are looking for a good World War II novel, this is a good one to pick up, especially if you are new to historical fiction!
What did you think of this book? Leave your comments below!
3 thoughts on “Review: The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel”
Historical fiction doesn’t usually interest me but actually this one sounds pretty good. Maybe I’ll get round to reading it someday.
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I hope you do! 🙂
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