Carefully crafting the world around which forgery thrived, The Book of Lost Names opens a door into the underground world of the 1940s, and gives us a glimpse of what it could have been like to work in the secret cells of the Resistance.
Alternating between 2005 and the 1940s (with the majority of the novel set in WW2) it chronicles how this illegal act became a vital source of resistance work and one of the core means of survival and escape in World War Two.
Eva Traube is a young Jewish Frenchwoman living in Paris and attending university when she is told a shocking and unbelievable rumour: thousands of foreign-born Jews are about to be rounded up in Paris. Although, Eva herself is French, her parents are Polish and could be in danger if these rumours are true. And yet first, Eva doesn’t believe them–they are too horrible, too unimaginably unjust to be plausible until the unimaginable happens.
Forced to flee Paris and all she has known, she creates a new identity, meticulously forging a perfect new identity card for herself, hoping to blend into obscurity and escape the scrutiny of the Nazis. Little does she know this is only the beginning of something far greater.
Eva possess a talent–a talent which could be an extremely vital force in fighting the Nazis and aiding and abetting the escape of many Jewish children into Switzerland.
But Eva doesn’t want these children’s real names to be forgotten, so with the help of a fellow resistance worker, whom she is unintentionally falling in love with, she creates a book of names, documenting each child she saves, each name hidden in an ingenious code.
What she doesn’t realize is her cell could be betrayed and all she has worked for could be lost.
Love, betrayal, intrigue, forgery, courage, survival, resilience–the list could go on. This is a factual and engaging read, while also connecting to the reader emotionally.
Eva is a likeable and courageous protagonist. I also liked how she wasn’t at first sure she wanted to help with the Resistance movement. She certainly was already very courageous and had strong convictions, yet her main goal was to save her family. I appreciated that she had uncertainty about joining the underground. It made her more real.
Her relationship with Remy is so endearing and I loved how Kristin Harmel fleshed it out. Remy has such a personality and a little arrogance to add to it, and the two of them made a touching couple! I was rooting for them all the way through!
The Book of Lost Names starts out on an engaging note, drawing the reader into its story. From Eva’s escape to becoming a forger for the Resistance–the story moves at a relatively fast speed. Near the middle it slows down somewhat, focussing rather on character development and the everyday tasks of forgers. However, don’t give up if you enjoy a continually fast paced novel–this book does speed up considerably near the end as it reaches it’s climax and there’s certainly the required dramatic elements to make up for some of the slower sections of this book.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction set during World War Two, and obviously for those who love Kristin Harmel! The reason I only rated it three and a half stars is because it didn’t do the same thing for me as The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr did. That said I still enjoyed it and would recommend it to historical fiction lovers.
The expected publication date for this book is July 21, 2020, and it’s available for pre-order.
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