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Review of ‘The Book of Lost Names’

Kristin Harmel’s The Book of Lost Names is about a librarian named Eva Traube. When she reads a magazine article about how Nazis destroyed priceless books from libraries in Berlin during WWII, she sees a photo of a book she thought was long gone.

Today, Eva is a simple librarian who is constantly putting books on shelves, but she has an exciting, eventful past.

Sixty-five years ago, in Paris 1942, Eva used her skills and knowledge in typing to create fake identities. With the help of Pere Clement, a priest, Eva created and helped hundreds of Jewish people escape to Switzerland. She became a valuable asset to the French resistance, using criminal-like acts to save innocent people—specifically, children—and creating fake identities for Jewish children as well.

Eva had a thought: Will these children be able to reunite with their families when the war is over? She used an old religious book to keep track of the children’s name, hence the “Book of Lost Names.”

During this time, Eva is motivated by protecting her mother, but her mother shows little appreciation for her daughter’s contributions. Eva’s father was taken into custody during a raid. She realizes she can’t do anything to help her father, but why stop there? There are hundreds of Jewish people who need help.

The novel begins in May of 2005, but after reuniting with the “Book of Lost Names,” Eva remembers the events leading up to and during the making of the book. She makes difficult decisions and takes risks that women of her profile and time would have been too afraid to do themselves.

This novel shows that war can bring out both the best and worst in people. Eva is one of many complex, interesting characters who bring this story to life. In doing good deeds and saving lives, Eva left behind a legacy of hope.

The Book of Lost Names is one of our 2020 Summer Reads. Find our full Summer Reading List here

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