“As if in a trance, she pushed up her sleeve. There on her forearm, next to a small brown birthmark, were six tattooed numbers.
‘Do you remember me now?” he asked, trembling.
She looked at him again, as if giving weight and bone to a ghost.
‘Lenka, it’s me,’ he said. ‘Josef. Your husband.'”
Alyson Richman, THE LOST WIFE
THE LOST WIFE by Alyson Richman was published in 2011 and is 334 pages. I had the book on my TBR list for some time, but when I met Alyson at NAIBA in Washington DC and was able to speak to her about the novel, I became so engrossed in what she had to say, that I moved it to the top of my reading pile.
THE LOST WIFE begins at a wedding when the groom’s grandfather spots the bride’s grandmother, and he realizes that she is the woman he married in Prague at the start of the second World War, and who he believed had died. As she begins to recognize him, the novel moves to the past and tragic story of the young Jewish lovers during WWII.
In pre-war Prague, Lenka is the daughter of a well-to-do glass blower and a Bohemian mother. She is raised in privilege and her talent for art is well nourished at Prague’s Academy of Art. As she comes to spend more time with her best friend’s family, she begins to fall in love with her friend’s older brother, Josef. Unfortunately, as their relationship grows, the shadow of the Nazis begins to overtake the city.
Before long, their entire world is turned upside down, and Lenka and Josef marry in haste, and with the blessing of their families. After one beautiful night together, their families and their lives begin to unravel, while terrible circumstances force them apart. Told from both Lenka and Josef’s perspectives, THE LOST WIFE details the horrors of war, the impossible choices the victims of the holocaust faced, and the triumph and redemption of the human spirit.
THE LOST WIFE is masterfully written. Richman reveals her story with precision, perfect pacing, and captivating prose. Not only are her characters and plot rich and memorable, but the writing itself is well-crafted and evocative. The historical detail and renderings of setting are as vivid as the paintings Lenka creates, and I was moved to hear that even in the hell of the Nazi work camps, there were those who tried to create things of beauty on paper, with music, and in their own relationships. Richman holds nothing back in her narrative, and I cried many times, but all of the pain is worth the message, and these are stories that need to be known.
If you love beautifully written, evocative historical novels, I strongly encourage you to read THE LOST WIFE. I can’t wait to read more from Alyson Richman, and I give this novel my highest recommendation.
Alyson was generous enough to donate a signed copy of THE LOST WIFE for a giveaway. To be entered into the drawing, please leave your favorite WWII book or film below in the comments. I will select a winner on Thursday, November 1st. (US residents only, please.)