The Book of Lost Names

Kristin Harmel

January 13, 2020


Inspired by an aston­ish­ing true sto­ry from World War II, a young woman with a tal­ent for forgery helps hun­dreds of Jew­ish chil­dren flee the Nazis in this unfor­get­table his­tor­i­cal nov­el from the New York Times best­selling author of the epic and heart-wrench­ing World War II tale” (Alyson Noel, #1 New York Times best­selling author) The Winemaker’s Wife.

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librar­i­an in Flori­da, is shelv­ing books one morn­ing when her eyes lock on a pho­to­graph in a mag­a­zine lying open near­by. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in six­ty-five years — a book she rec­og­nizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accom­pa­ny­ing arti­cle dis­cuss­es the loot­ing of libraries by the Nazis across Europe dur­ing World War II — an expe­ri­ence Eva remem­bers well — and the search to reunite peo­ple with the texts tak­en from them so long ago. The book in the pho­to­graph, an eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry reli­gious text thought to have been tak­en from France in the wan­ing days of the war, is one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing cas­es. Now housed in Berlin’s Zen­tral- und Lan­des­bib­lio­thek library, it appears to con­tain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from — or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer — but will she have the strength to revis­it old mem­o­ries and help reunite those lost dur­ing the war?

As a grad­u­ate stu­dent in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Pol­ish Jew. Find­ing refuge in a small moun­tain town in the Free Zone, she begins forg­ing iden­ti­ty doc­u­ments for Jew­ish chil­dren flee­ing to neu­tral Switzer­land. But eras­ing peo­ple comes with a price, and along with a mys­te­ri­ous, hand­some forg­er named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to pre­serve the real names of the chil­dren who are too young to remem­ber who they real­ly are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resis­tance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

An engag­ing and evoca­tive nov­el rem­i­nis­cent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Net­workThe Book of Lost Names is a tes­ta­ment to the resilience of the human spir­it and the pow­er of brav­ery and love in the face of evil.

Discussion Questions

Inspired by true sto­ries of the Resis­tance in World War II, this nov­el of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion begins in 2005. Eighty-six year old Eva Traube, a semi-retired librar­i­an in Flori­da, sees an arti­cle in a mag­a­zine about how the Nazis loot­ed libraries across Europe dur­ing World War II. There is a pho­to­graph of an eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry reli­gious text Eva has not seen in six­ty-five years but rec­og­nizes as The Book of Lost Names. The book, now housed in Berlin, appears to con­tain a code but researchers do not know what the code means. Eva decides she must go to Berlin because she has the answer.

The nov­el then returns to Germany’s occu­pa­tion of France. In 1942, Eva, then a grad­u­ate stu­dent, flees? Paris with her moth­er after the arrest of her father, a Pol­ish Jew. They find refuge in a small moun­tain town in the Free Zone. She begins forg­ing iden­ti­ty doc­u­ments to pro­tect the iden­ti­ty of Jew­ish chil­dren whose par­ents were sent to con­cen­tra­tion camps. The chil­dren will escape to neu­tral Switzer­land. Eva knows the chil­dren are too young to remem­ber who they real­ly are and she must find a way to pre­serve their real names. She and Remy, a mem­ber of the Resis­tance under­ground and a forg­er, keep a record of each child secret­ly cod­ed in an old reli­gious book which she names The Book of Lost Names.

Eva and Remy fall in love and make a plan to meet in Paris when the war ends. Their Resis­tance cell is betrayed and Remy dis­ap­pears. Eva leaves a code for Remy in the book, which is now in Berlin. It will tell her if Remy sur­vived, and allow the researchers to pre­serve the names of all the chil­dren. This is a sto­ry of resilience, courage and love.