Martin's Must Reads: 'The Book of Lost Names'

Jan 12, 2021

A New York Times article about Nazis looting books during World War II and the fact that German libraries are still full of those stolen books was the catalyst for Kristin Harmel’s newest novel.

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and The Book of Lost Names is Harmel’s fifth WWII historical novel.

The story opens in 2005 when eighty-six year old Eva Traube Abrams sees a photo of a book that she hasn’t seen in sixty years. Chapter Two begins in July 1942 in German occupied Paris, France when Eva’s Jewish father is taken in the middle of the night by the SS. With the help of a friend and forged papers that Eva designs, she  and her mother escape to Aurignon in the Free Zone of France.

Aurignon has an underground network of villagers who help Jewish children escape to safety in Switzerland. These children, as well as those who are helping them, need false identity documents  in order to cross the border.

Due to the convincing job Eva did with her own papers, the local leaders convince Eva to stay and help forge the papers. As she gives the children new false names, she worries they won’t remember their given names when the war is over. Her fellow forger Remy comes up with a code  to save their names in a religious book, the same book that Eva recognizes sixty years later. Harmel has based her book on real methods of forgery used during WWII.

If you’re looking for a story that is, as the book jacket says, “a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil," then you must read The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel.