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The Lost Wife
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301 of 313 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
If you are expecting a conventional Holocaust novel with a love story as the background of the plot, this is the wrong book for you. Alyson Richman has created a heart-wrenching story of Terezin and Auschwitz through visual arts of the main female character and the profound pain of the central male character. Lenka Maisel, a beautiful young girl, lived in Prague with her gentle, intelligent father, artist mother and younger sister. She had wonderful friends, a comfortable life and was talented enough to be accepted at an elite Art academy. She met her true love, Josef Kohn, also from an accomplished family. Their only problem was they lived in Prague and they were Jewish.

The beautiful city of Prague with its elegant landscape and historical architecture was one of Hitler's conquests. As in most European cities during World War II, the Jews were the scapegoats, and the Germans enacted the Nuremberg laws giving the Jews little freedom and removed all their worldly possessions to fill their illicit coffers. Despite this despicable course of action, Josef and Lenka marry quickly. Fleeing the Nazis was the only salvation for any European Jew. Josef's family had secured exit visas; Lenka's family had no money or possessions to buy their way out of the Czech homeland.

What follows is not the predictable ghetto/concentration camps horrors, it is more of palpable images. From the perspective of an artist, Richman gives the reader the beautiful, radiant red and orange colors of Prague, the countryside, and happiness to the grays, blacks and fetid odors of the camps. Her writing evokes the smells of flowers and the stench of the train cars, barracks and the wretched illnesses prevalent in the prisoners. It is well known that art and music became the only enjoyment allowed prisoners juxtaposed to the Nazi's enjoyment of sapping the Jews' intellect to destroy them.

I have read many Holocaust fiction and non-fiction books but Richman tackles the subject with a mixture of an undying passionate love with grotesque carnage and humiliation. I could feel Lenka and Josef's singular love and also the absolute horror of Nazi's atrocities. It is not easy to read. The author gives us the day-to-day operation of the camps provoking devastating sadness as the terror escalated. There are secondary characters, connecting the plot, who are unique and serve to flesh out a balance of personalities. The only weakness was Richman's abbreviated attention to Lenka's second marriage in contrast to Josef's years with Amalia.

Josef's profession as an obstetrician served as a sharp contrast from the death knell of the war. Survivor's guilt seems to prevent Lenka and Josef from fully enjoying their continued existence. The reader once again learns about the enduring love of family at all costs and remains horrified of what others are capable of doing to extinguish their lives.
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65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The Lost Wife is one of those books that you can't put down; I didn't.

Ms. Richman managed to marry history and the human experience into a novel, rich in detail and emotionally charged, using her gifts of words, tempo, emotion and thorough research skills.

Personally, this was total fulfillment for me. I have traveled to Prague and Terezin, and having spent time there, all the places that were mentioned in the book came alive through the story of Lenka and Josef. Anyone that is not familiar with the customs of these persecuted people or the period in time spoken about in this book, will get a first class lesson and hopefully, a new understanding.

The time frames, places, and details all came together for me and reinforced my own personal experiences. Previoulsy, I actually had spoken with and emailed a few of Ms. Richman's resource people, who were so happy to assist me with our family search of those who had perished, or spent time at Terezin. I have a book of The Artists of Terezin, and I was so blown away as their names were mentioned; then their names became lives, then mere memories.

My final review of the book came as no surprise after reading all the author's previous works, I was so looking forward to the newest achievement, which is important and something that lived up to my expectations. The only thing missing is the date when the next novel will be released. Bravo!
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80 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
Historical Romance -Sept. 6th, 2011
4 1/2 stars

Growing up in Prague in the 1930s, Lenka has a joyful childhood surrounded by family and friends. Everything changed though with the coming of the war. Lenka's family is Jewish. And suddenly their future seems bleak and uncertain with the impeding arrival of the Nazis. Just days before the invasion of the Germans, Lenka and her first love, a medical student, Josef, decided to get married quickly. Josef and his family planned to leave Europe and flee to America with Lenka. But when Lenka discovered that her family could not get the necessary papers to escape Prague, she decided to stay behind with them.

But although separated, Josef and Lenka could not forget each other even through the horrors of the war and the terrible Holocaust. In the year 2000, when the eighty-five year old Josef means the grandmother of his future granddaughter-in-law, he is struck by how familiar this old woman looks. Could she be his beloved Lenka?

The most amazing thing about this novel is that it was inspired by a true story. The author wrote in her notes that at a recent wedding, the groom's grandfather and the bride's grandmother, who has never met before the ceremony, realized that they were married to each other before WWII!! It takes a miracle for them to find each other after all these years. The novel itself doesn't disappoint. As I was reading it, I was continuously getting teary-eyed over the horrifying description of Terezin, the town where thousands and thousands of Jews were cramped into, and of Auschwitz. The relationships between Lenka and her family, Lenka and Josef, and Lenka and the other Jews shows the triumph of love over senseless hatred.

Touching and definitely thought provoking, this novel on the Holocaust is not to be missed.

Reviewed by Pauline by Bookaholics Romance Club
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73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Perhaps three stars it too little, since the book was well-written and did a good job of conveying the wartime experiences of its protagonists. However, as a novel, it failed. After the teaser at the beginning, which hints that the couple is reunited, I raced through the entire book trying to find how their relationship was resolved, so many years after their separation. <Spoiler alert> If this is what you are looking for, don't read this book. If, on the other hand, you want a discussion of Holocaust experience and its emotional fallout, it is well-written and conveys its message.

I think the book ended too abruptly, and would have been better served by expanding Josef and Lenka's reunion. We learn so much about the two characters and how their memories of each other affected them through their respective lifetimes. I think it would have been worthwhile to include an exploration of how their reunion affected them, both as individuals and as a couple. It didn't do that at all - it just stopped. Meeting each other after so much time would stir up so much emotion, and an exploration of these conflicting feelings and the ability to see each other as they were after so many years, in contrast to memories frozen in time, would have been very interesting and worthwhile, but that never takes place. It also might have been better to use a flashback technique, where they could relive their lives via flashback as they were relating their respective stories to each other in the present. Again, this didn't happen, and it all comes back to the teaser in the first chapter, which led to a disappointing ending.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I have just read the last page of Alyson Richman's latest book, "The Lost Wife". A remarkable love story, poignant and haunting. It begins in Prague in 1934 and ends in New York City in 2000. Those extremely dark days of history produced remarkable rays of light and transcendence. It is a celebration of man's indomitable spirit.
I find myself revisiting the lives of Lenka and Josef, not ready yet to say good-bye. Thank you Alyson.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
The Lost Wife is lush with historical detail but doesn't read historical; it reads like the stories your mother used to tell you at bedtime, or a frail, time-worn journal you serendipitously come across in the attic. Embarking on the childhood and golden years of Lenka, the ethereal, maternal beauty--in Prague in all its glamor, 1934--this Holocaust novel evokes both the rapturous European lifestyle before the Third Reich, and the horrific and chilling concentration camps of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and Germany during World War II.

A tragic parting of lovers sets the desolate, desperate tone in Lenka and Joseph's individual tales as they each relearn to live during the war; Joseph, struggling to survive without Lenka, and Lenka, struggling just to survive. The book is composed of a beautiful back-and-forth exchange of lives that continued in the aftermath of this separation: the suffering, the dullness, the grayness, the hunger, the emptying. The Lost Wife isn't so much about romance, as it is about love--about lovers who once went wholly, completely right--that withstands the test of time and the brutality that is life.

Lenka is strong and a stubborn character, but I felt way too detached from her. She is the embodiment of how powerful the bonds of blood are, and very admirable in values, but I just couldn't connect with her or her choices. Through her eyes, readers glimpse at the injustices of Terezín and the horrors of Auschwitz, the compassion of a wife, and the duty of a daughter. Joseph is more relatable, but I couldn't stand his one-track mind. He's always loved Lenka, I understand, but how can a human be as static as to say he never loved anyone after her--not even his second wife? Human minds are more complex and open than that, in my opinion; I wish his life after Lenka had been portrayed more colorfully because that would have mystified--totally eternalized--their reunion.

This reunion is what magically brings these interwoven stories full circle. The glimpse of a smooth, white neck. The recollection of those strong, sturdy hands. The familiar glint in the eye. That are all it take for the two lovers to recognize each other--sixty years and several lifetimes after being wrenched apart.

Tastefully and delicately crafted with Alyson Richman's golden words and brimming with historical facets of the prevalent anti-Semitism throughout WWII-era Europe that oughtn't be remembered, but deserves to be exposed, The Lost Wife relays so much significance. Among the penetrating insights, include the sanctuary and solace of art, and of course, music; the danger of propaganda and how even a motherland will go to far lengths to deceive; and the ultimate triumph of a survivor: their story.

Pros: Real, raw characters // Lyrical, moving prose // Gorgeous and scary depiction of life during wartime // At times graphic, at others, tender--both frightening and redolent // Conveys the beauty of memory // Heartwarming true love // Reunion aspect is astonishing // Memories are sensual, lethargic, and dreamy

Cons: Lenka and Joseph are each a bit off... I couldn't sympathize with them completely

Verdict: Eloquent in tone and stirring in message, The Lost Wife is a Holocaust novel with sentiments on family, love, and survival. Sophie's Choice meets Atonement in Richman's exquisite story about impossible lovers--the most perfect of lovers. It is at once haunting and elegant, symbolic and graceful, and in the end, is the kind of book that'll make your heart clench and your breath shudder.

8 out of 10 hearts (4 stars): An engaging read; highly recommended.

Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher, via Romancing the Book, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!!)
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As the last of the witnesses to the Holocaust approach the end of their natural lives, Alyson Richman has written "The Lost Wife", a touching book that pays tribute to those that did, and did not survive the Nazis. Her writing style is deceptively simple: The alternating first person sequencing between the two main characters is a good narrative vehicle for what starts as a love story, but devolves into the horrors of the period. The history Ms. Richman describes is carefully researched and, as she explains in her notes, the plot is not fictional, but based on real people and real events. "The Lost Wife" is, indeed much more accurate in its portrayal of the targets of Nazi hatred than William Styron's "Sophie's Choice".

Although a good book for readers of any age, The Lost Wife should have specific appeal to young people (mid teens through 20's) who want an accessible, historically accurate, but riveting introduction to the plight of European Jewry under the Nazis.

Unfortunately, since World War II, the words 'Concentration Camp', 'Genocide', and 'Ghetto' have been co-opted to encompass virtually any minority group except Jews. Even college educated Gen-Xers seem more likely to associate these terms with(respectively) Japanese Americans, the Slavic Muslims of Zagreb, and the Black/Hispanic residents of New York City's South Bronx, than with the Jewish victims of Hitler's Final Solution. If universalizing the Shoah has proven to be the nadir of political correctness, "The Lost Wife" provides an eloquent rectification of this travesty.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book was masterfully written. The author's writing style kept me wanting to read all through the night!, the book was really hard to put down. This story is not simply about the love between a man and a woman. This story also details the love between friends, the trifling love of sisters, the love you have for your parents and the connections we make along the way. I would lie if I said this book didnt make me cry many times. The author speaks of love in an honest way. Love is never perfect and many times there aren't happy endings to the loving relationships we build in life. This book has so much depth and made realize how much more I should appreciate those around me. I look forward to doing something I seldom do - I look forward to rereading this book to revisit and extract whatever I missed during my first read. I highly recommend.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
Lenka, an aspiring artist, and Josef, a medical student, met in Prague on the eve of WWII. Both young people were Jewish; despite the looming threat from Hitler and the Nazis, they quickly fell in love and decided to get married. Lenka hoped that the marriage would not only be a happy one, but would provide a way out of the country for her parents and younger sister.

As was the case with many families at the time, the newlyweds were separated mere days after their hasty marriage ceremony. Lenka believed that Josef perished onboard a ship bound for the United States, and Josef received the news that Lenka was sent to a gas chamber upon her arrival in Auschwitz.

Unbeknownst to each other, both Lenka and Josef survived, married other people are re-built their lives. Well into their eighties, they attend a rehearsal dinner for their grandchildren (Josef's grandson is marrying Lenka's granddaughter) and find what they've been looking for all these years - each other.

The Lost Wife by Alison Richman is the book I've been wishing for while trying to get through the so-so novels. Although the prologue made it pretty clear that Josef and Lenka would eventually reunite - and hence I did not shy away from revealing this fact in the review - the story of their initial meeting, courtship and subsequent years apart had me glued to the pages.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
When I first started reading I felt that this would be a boring historical novel. What I loved about this novel was once I really got to the meat of the story, I was feeling the characters. I enjoyed how we learn of their lives after WWII. We have had so many books in the past few years that have dealt with the horrors that Hitler put on the Jewish people. What I liked about the novel was in the midst of that awful time, some good did happen. Amazing artist drew and recorded what was going on in the camps. These works were saved and these people took risk with their own lives to record this. The love story and the story of their new loves was sweet and touching. This is a very accurate account of history and a very sweet love story.
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