[Review] The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

Publisher and Publication Date: Gallery Books. 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 400.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers of WW2 stories and the Holocaust.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon.
Link @ Barnes and Noble.
Link @ Book Depository.

Kristin Harmel website/ Facebook/ Instagram/ Goodreads Author Page

Summary:

Dual time period historical fiction story: 2005 and 1942.
In the modern time period, Eva Traube Abrams is a librarian in Florida. She is a widow. She has one son, Ben, age 52. In a newspaper article she sees a photo of a book she’s not seen since the early 1940s. She recognizes it as the Book of Lost Names. It is a German man in Berlin who has the book. This coincides with the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. The man who has the book is also a librarian; and when he finds books that were stolen by the Nazis he tries to return them to their owners. Eva’s mind reflects on that time in her life and on a man she’d decided to forget after the war.
The Book of Lost Names is a courageous testament about those who were persecuted and suffered under the Nazi regime.
In the second part of story which is the past, Eva’s story begins in July 1942 in Paris, France. She works as a librarian at the Sorbonne Library in Paris. She is a young woman living with her parents. She does not have siblings. They are Jews.

My Thoughts:

World War II and Holocaust stories are at the top of my list of books to read. I read historical fiction, biographies, memoirs, and war stories all centered around the Holocaust and World War II.

The Book of Lost Names is a little different from some of the other types of books that it can be compared to. Some examples of my point is romance is not a strong theme. There is romance but it is brief. Through most of Eva’s story of the past it is just her and her mother. Their relationship is one of angst. There is unresolved trauma, fear, regret, and guilt. They are at odds with one another. It is sad because there is only the two of them. So often in a love story the romance is front and center in the over-all sweeping story. In this story, Eva loves her parents. This is a big theme in the story. Her great love for her parents. She must help them survive. It is a breathe of fresh air that this story is different. I love stories that are written-tweaked differently from most of the others. Bravo to Kristin Harmel.

What I love about the story:

1. The relationship between Eva and her mother even though it is thick with angst. Without their relationship in this story it would be flat.
2. Eva is an intelligent and talented young woman. The emphasis is less on her beauty and more about her character.
3. Secondary characters who are a strong balance for the story.
4. The mood of the story is tension. Moments of relaxation during brief periods.

What I didn’t like in the story:

1. I feel the brief romance in the story is not needed. Focus on Eva’s role in the Book of Lost Names. Focus on the people who she worked with. Focus on the relationship between she and her mother. Historical fiction does not have to have a romance. Love is expressed in different types of relationships.
2. Eva comes across as too cool under pressure. I feel it would have helped this story (to be more invested and swept up) for Eva to show deep emotion. I understand she needs to be calm under pressure with the work she did, but I’d like to see a deeper level of emotion, despair, and imperfectness in her character.
3. It would have been an added perk for this book if one of the children were written about in depth-their story representing all of the others.




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