The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor


The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor– 336 pages

ARC from author

Book Blurb:

Austria, 1938. 
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. When his teacher disappears during Kristallnacht, Kristoff is forced to engrave stamps for the Germans, and simultaneously works alongside Elena, his beloved teacher’s fiery daughter, and with the Austrian resistance to send underground messages and forge papers. As he falls for Elena amidst the brutal chaos of war, Kristoff must find a way to save her, and himself.

Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is going through a divorce and while cleaning out her house and life in the aftermath, she comes across the stamp collection of her father, who recently went into a nursing home. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter as he goes through her dad’s collection, Katie and Benjamin are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.

My Review: 4.5 stars

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The Lost Letter exposes the reader to the intricate art of stamp making and the power it held with the Austrian resistance during WW2. I love books where items hidden in plain sight were used as a means of communication. It took secrecy and creativity to make these tactics work.

This book flips between time periods using short chapters and sharp writing. With a dual time period novel, there are many characters specific to each era, so it’s important that the reader doesn’t get confused with who is who. Each character was developed just enough to be realistic, flawed and easy to remember.

Although this book is very much related to the Holocaust and the resistance, it also has a beautiful romance at its heart and a poignant storyline about Alzheimer’s running through it. The part about the Alzheimer’s was extremely well done  as we see how it radically affects a family. The quiet love story in one era and a passionate one in the other, were beautifully portrayed.

Reading books like this make me want to be the main character that finds something that means something. And as a bonus, this something happens to takes me across the globe in search of its significance. I suppose it’s like my 10-year-old self that wanted to be Nancy Drew every time I closed her books.

Jillian Cantor has come to be one of my favorite authors. This is the third novel I’ve read of hers and each one is completely different and equally good. Check them out here, Margot and The Hours Count. I’ve  an edelweiss stamp before the war started and a German version.

Quotes I liked:

The edelweiss is an expression of love, you know. Proof of unusual daring, my father used to say. That’s how you proved you loved a girl. You ventured to the most dangerous mountain-tops to find an edelweiss to give her.”

-“She was in love with him, you know. And love makes us do the stupidest things.”

-“But what is there really to be afraid of but death? And I’m not afraid of that.”

  1. Hi Lauren – I also think she’s a fine writer. Did you read “Margot”? Amazing concept, Anne Frank’s sister surviving the death camps and migrating to the US. So very well executed and memorable. Happy spring!