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 Trainby Irma Joubert
The Girl From the Train is not to be confused with The Girl On the Train--a completely different kind of book. The Girl from the Train was authored by South African author Irma Joubert. In some ways it is two books in one: historical fiction and then later, romance. (It is not historical romance; the chronological division is quite striking in this novel.)
The catalyst and initial setting for this book is World War II, but this is a book that travels through countries (Poland, Germany, South Africa) and through time (World War II and the Cold War). Although this book has many tragic events, as books regarding the Holocaust and World War II inevitably will have, the sorrow is not suffocating. (For instance, All the Light We Cannot See may have been beautifully written and in many ways brilliant, but it is an emotionally devastating book to experience.) There was hope and goodness sprinkled like breadcrumbs along the way. The Girl From the Train was truly one of the more rewarding and delightful novels I have read this year. A gem!
Profanity/Language: 2 mild obscenities; 1 derogatory name.
Violence/Gore: Reports of Auschwitz; character jumps/is pushed from moving train resulting in minor injuries; report of death of family member from illness; explosives set to destroy bridge and explosion and explosion viewed from a distance, implied death of many; reports of troop movements and underground activity in WWII; planning of attacks during WWII; 2 extended (non-detailed) scenes of fighting with guns, tanks, explosives resulting in deaths; report that a parent was a soldier and was shot; scene of rioting, people are killed; character briefly recounts events at riot; young girl slaps a young boy when he kissed her; an accidental explosion resulting in injury; character recalls conditions in ghetto, violence, and a death.
Sex/Nudity: Male is attracted to a female; female gives male a back rub (romantic overtones); various characters kiss passionately upon a few separate occasions; character notices another's figure; report of kissing; characters dance closely; characters embrace/put arm around/sit on lap; characters talk about being in love; general thoughts of desire.
Mature Subject Matter:
WW II, death of parents, death of family members, concentration camps/Holocaust, orphans, Communism, prejudice, racism, mental trauma.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adults smoke and drink; a twenty-year-old has wine with dinner.
Reviewed By Cindy