Books

Book Review – The Book of Lost Names

There is an endless supply of books out there about WW2. I have read a lot of them, like so many of us. I took a break for awhile because my heart just couldn’t take it anymore. I also found that I didn’t like all of them and then felt guilty for giving them a negative rating because of the quality of the writing. There is one particular book that stands out from a couple years ago that everyone raved about and I thought the writing was terrible and that the conditions portrayed in the book were not accurate. I won’t say which one it is because I don’t want to appear heartless. I started reading this genre again late last year, as I work in a library and they are in constant circulation. This one passed through my hands countless times, so I thought it was time to give it my attention.

The Book of Lost Names is another book in a genre of WW2 fiction that you know will not have a happy ending, but tells an important story. Eva is a librarian in Florida who comes across a photograph in the New York Times of a book she is very familiar with from 65 years earlier, The Book of Lost Names. This book has a code in it that only she and one other person can decipher. Researchers have been unable to decode it, so Eva believes it is time to return to Europe and help reveal the mystery of The Book.

The Book of Lost names tells two stories. Her current life and adventure to Germany does not take up a lot of the storytelling, to say it is brief would be an understatement. The majority of the story is about the past. How Ava and her mother find themselves away from their home in Paris, in hiding. It is there, that Eva finds herself in the underground, helping forge documents for the Resistance. It’s a fascinating story and one that I imagine actually happened all over Europe. The ending is a little sappy, but very satisfying. Given the losses that Eva endured, a happy ending is well deserved.

I give the book more like 4.5 stars, not 4. I compare a lot of WW2 fiction to The Invisible Bridge, which for me is the gold standard for that genre. But, Kristin Harmel came close in this one with storytelling and writing. The difference was about 500 pages of meticulous research.

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