Sunday, 7 February 2016
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
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.`
During the last moments of calm in prewar Prague, Lenka, a young art student, falls in love with Josef. They marry - but soon, like so many others, they are torn apart by the currents of war.
In America Josef becomes a successful obstetrician and raises a family, though he never forgets the wife he thinks died in the camps. But in the Nazi ghetto of Terezín - and later in Auschwitz - Lenka has survived, relying on her skills as an artist and the memories of a husband she believes she will never see again.
Now, decades later, an unexpected encounter in New York brings Lenka and Josef back together.
From the comfort of life in Prague before the occupation to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the endurance of first love, the resilience of the human spirit and our capacity to remember.
I had heard lots of good things about this book and couldn't resist reserving it from my local Library, I am so glad that I did. A very well deserved 5 stars or 10/10.
Primarily this is a love story about two young Czech Jews who marry, end up separated and living in two different countries. Whilst one of them has escaped the atrocities that are to follow for Jews living in occupied Europe during WWII, sadly the other one is destined to encounter all that life had to throw at her. Lenka could not leave her family behind and decided that she would stay with them, rather than make a new life for her with Josef her new husband.
As readers we can only imagine how hard the decisions that many would have had to make in order to escape the horrors and save their lives, would have been.
Josef, had the chance to escape with his family. He hated leaving Lenka behind, but as her mind was already made up he had little choice in the matter.
As we begin the story an elderly couple meet at a Wedding. Little do they know that they have a shared past. The story is a dual time frame one, in so much as we are taken back in time by the narrators Lenka and Josef and brought back slowly to the future where they once again meet.
Just like Lenka who used her love of art to portray life, Alyson Richman has used the written word to portray life before, during and after WWII. This is the first of her books that I have had the pleasure to read and I look forward to reading others in due course.