Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. 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 intend 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 in. 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.
The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert is unlike any WWII fiction novel I’ve read. Most notably because it’s told through the perspective of a child. Young Gretl, age 6, is of similar age to my own children, so it was easy for me grasp her childlike view of the world. My heart was seized with compassion, because each new twist seemed to compound her grief and loss. Additionally, I loved the tender bond which forms between Gretl and her guardian, Jakob.
Irma Joubert set her novel apart from others in it’s era by emphasizing the pre- and post- World War II plight of the Poles. She also held my attention by continuously changing the setting. Over the course of the book, Jakob and Gretl travel through multiple cities in Poland, briefly into Germany, and finally on to South Africa. Each new place brings with it a wealth of historical, political, and geographical nuances.
The ability to read this work in the author’s native language (Afrikaan) is the one thing that could have made the story better. The single aspect of the book that I found unfavorable was the cadence of the translation. Nevertheless, The Girl from the Train is a memorable and heartrending story of indomitable love, faith, and perseverance.
I received this book free as a member of the Family Christian Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
About the Author
International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She’s the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa, but this will be her first novel published in English. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels.
Winner has been notified by email.
Christian Shelf-Esteem and Family Christian would like to bless one reader with a copy of Irma Joubert’s THE GIRL FROM THE TRAIN. LIMIT: ONE (1) ENTRY PER E-MAIL/IP ADDRESS. This giveaway is sponsored by Family Christian and is open to residents of the United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 years of age or older at the time of entry. No PO Boxes. Ending 11:59 PM (CST) ON 10/25/15.
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