Book Review: The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
This memorising, compelling, completely unforgettable novel is a stand-out. This is a beautifully-written, haunting read that continued to linger in my mind long after finishing the final page. A young married Czech couple, Lenka and Josef, are separated when the Nazis take over Czechoslovakia. Josef flees to America. Lenka is sent to the camps – first Terezin, then Auschwitz. Both believe the other has perished, but decades later they meet in New York at a wedding. The opening chapter of this novel still gives me goosebumps. Both of them widowed grandparents, Josef immediately recognises Lenka at a wedding and asks to see her arm. It is not the tattooed numbers that he is looking for, but the small brown birthmark above it... she looks at him ‘as if giving weight and bone to a ghost.’ (And apparently this scene is based on a true story.)
This truly is an astonishing novel. It goes back and forth in time and details what happened to each of them during the war, but also the long decades after when they married other people and tried to make sense of their lives, while never forgetting their first love. This is a story of the Holocaust, but is even more a story of enduring love, despite almost unimaginable loss, and ultimately a novel about the resilience of the human spirit.