Monday, November 2, 2015

The Girl From the Train

The Girl From the Train
Irma Joubert
(Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson)
ISBN: 978-0529102379
November 2015/384 pages/$15.99

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.


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. She and her husband live in Bloemfontein, South Africa.


Originally published in South Africa, this is a compelling story set in the World War II era. Some early portions of the book were a bit difficult to follow as I had a hard time identifying some of the characters. Heart-wrenching moments and dangerous scenes escalated the tension in this story, and my heart ached for all that Gretl, and others like her, endured. Many twists and turns occur in both Gretl and Jakób's lives before they meet again many years later. While their relationship was understandably complex and they deeply cared about each other, it was a bit of a stretch for me to make the leap with the differences in their ages and the "rescuer/rescued" relationship to one of romance. A beautiful story receiving rave reviews, The Girl From the Train is a great novel for book club discussions.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Thomas Nelson's Fiction Guild. 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.”


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