'Missing a young girl, Dora Bruder, 15, height 1.55m, oval-shaped face, grey-brown eyes, grey sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes. All information to M. and Mme Bruder, 41 Boulevard Ornano, Paris.'
The author chanced upon this notice in a December 1941 issue of Paris Soir. The girl has vanished from the convent school which had taken her in during the Occupation. She had apparently run away on a bitterly cold night at a time of especially violent German reprisals.
Moved by her fate, the author sets out to find all he can about her. Eventually he discovers her name in a list of Jews deported to Auschwitz in September 1942 and what further fragments he is able to uncover about the Bruder family become a meditation on the immense losses of the period - people lost, stories lost, human history lost.
Modiano delivers a moving survey of a decade-long investigation that revived for him the sights, sounds and sorrowful rhythms of occupied Paris. And in seeking to exhume Dora Bruder's fate, he in turn faces, and must come to terms with, his own family history.