The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert (review by Kristi)

the girl from the train

From Goodreads: Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They mean to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her home. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

My review: The Girl from the Train is an emotional rollercoaster ride of a read. It is the story of Gretl, the girl from the train, and Jakob, the young man who finds her. It is a tale of loss and love during and after World War II.

Even though this isn’t the type of story I usually read I enjoyed it. The author has a way with words making you forget your surrounding and become totally immersed in the story. There were many sentences and phrases that I paused to go back and read again. She did a wonderful job with the war scenes and again made me feel as if I was there.

Gretl and Jakob are easy enough to like. They are complex people living in an even more complex world. There were times though I thought the author had Gretl a bit too advanced for her age. Her words and actions were those of someone years older than her six years of age.

This book was originally published years ago in another language and recently translated to English. The translation seemed to be well done even though at times the characters conversations seemed just a tad off.

If you like romance stories that are steeped in historical context then you will enjoy this book. It is a book of tragedy, loss, growth and love.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and the Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest opinion which I have given.


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