There is something humbling about reading a book set during the holocaust. It reminds us how one could lose everything they owned – Family, friends, home and life itself, sometimes at the hands of people whom we believe to be our own. How our safe havens can be turned into an inferno. How a holy symbol from a spiritual land far away can be transformed into a symbol of terror. And how a star can indicate so much more than a twinkling ray of hope in the dark sky.
The Book of Lost Names sits next to The Nightingale and The Tattooist of Auschwitz on my bookshelf. Holocaust stories, that are as much about human resilience and spirit as they are of the darkest period in human history. There is no bound to what unspeakable things the human mind is capable of doing and to what extent it can go to protect its loved ones.
In this tale inspired by true stories from WW2, a young Jewish woman, Eva flees Paris with her mother after the arrest of her father. She then joins a forgery ring and uses her exceptional talent as an artist to forge documents that will help save thousands of Jewish children from the Nazis. As Eva works days on a stretch to save as many children as she can, she feels obligated to record the original names of these children to be shared once the war is over and the world is a better place once again. Not doing so feels simply wrong. With the help of a friend, she comes up with a way to do this without risking the record falling into the wrong hands, should the enemies infiltrate their forgery ring someday. Thus born is The Book of Lost Names.
“But we aren’t defined by the names we carry or the religion we practice or the nation whose flag flies over our heads. I know that now. We’re defined by who we are in our hearts, who we choose to be on this earth.”
The book begins in 2005 when Eva, now a librarian in the States, learns that The Book of Lost Names has been found. She embarks on a journey to Paris to claim it. And while she does this, we are taken back to 1942 Paris, where Eva and her parents lived at the time of Jews being rounded up and sent to labour camps.
‘Her family had no idea she had been a fighter for France, a forger who had saved hundreds of lives, a woman who had once loved with her whole heart.’
Eva’s journey is unimaginably hard. There are times when I had to put down the book for a few minutes to absorb the magnitude of events that had occurred in the past. A story of courage and resilience, The Book of Lost Names is a novel that will linger in the readers’ minds long after the last page is turned. Highly recommended.