Home / Book Reviews / THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES BY KRISTIN HARMEL Reviewed by Mary Mittiga


Mary Mittiga is a retired federal biologist. She and her husband, David Burris, enjoy spending time with their two daughters and grandson. She is a Bay County Master Gardener volunteer and especially likes native plants and creating pollinator gardens. Her other hobbies include hiking, playing the dulcimer, and, of course, reading.

The Book of Lost Names (2020) by Kristin Harmel has all the elements I love in a good read— art, books, political intrigue, World War II, a handsome stranger, and a long-unsolved mystery! It draws on less-known true stories about the vital role of forgers in the French Resistance and the looting of rare books by the Nazis. Most importantly, it is a tale of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary acts during the most challenging of times.
The story revolves around Eva, both as a young Jewish woman during the Nazi occupation of France in 1942, and later in life as a librarian seeking to reunite with a special book that was stolen by the Nazis.
After her father is arrested, young Eva uses her artistic talent to forge documents that allow her to escape Nazi-occupied Paris with her mother and avoid deportation to a concentration camp. She is aided by members of the French Resistance in a small mountain town in the free zone. Although reluctant at first, she gradually becomes a key player in forging the identity papers necessary to move thousands of Jewish children safely to Switzerland.
Eva, at an advanced age, has kept her past hidden from her family until she sees a magazine article with a photograph of an 18th-century religious tome she immediately recognizes—The Book of Lost Names. The book is housed in a library in Berlin and a search is on for its rightful owner and to decipher a mysterious code hidden within its pages. Eva is drawn to Berlin to recover The Book of Lost Names and to resolve an unanswered question of her own.
I’m a huge fan of fiction and read a variety of genres. I especially love mysteries, science fiction/fantasy, and historical fiction. Kristin Harmel has written several books set during WWII. There’s a great interview with Kristin on the new podcast BCPL Unstacked by staff of our own Northwest Regional Library System at https://anchor.fm/nwrls/ episodes/Author-Talk-1-Unwind-with-Kristin- Harmel-eidtto. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Harmel’s work!
The one upside of our current pandemic is more time hunkered down at home with a good book and a nice cuppa tea. The Book of Lost Names is a particularly apt tale during this difficult time. Thankfully, our world is full of everyday heroes that step up and make a difference helping those in need!

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