March 13, 2020
Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11, Jewish, Nazi-Occupied Europe
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Rescuing children, her life’s work…
The Last Train to London shares the story of real-life hero Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance who risked her life smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany. (She was honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. )
The mission known as Kindertransport carried thousands of children out of Nazi-occupied Europe. In addition to hearing about Tante Truus as she was known, the author imagines the lives of children such as Stephan (budding playwright), his younger brother. and Zofie-Helene (mathematics protegee).
Courage isn’t the absence of fear, rather the going forward in the face of it…
Genre: The Last Train to London represents the best of the historical fiction genre: real events, the imagined lives of real people, thoughtful themes, well-written characters, and the compelling story of difference makers.
Memorable Characters: Tante Truus joins a long list of my favorite WW11 heroes…ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the face of great danger. I appreciate the supportive role her husband, Joop, played and his utmost respect for Truus and her dangerous mission. Do you wonder what you would do in a similar situation? God bless the compassionate souls who care for and rescue innocent children!
One is always greater than zero.
Two of the older children in the story are also memorable and well-drawn: Stephan is of Jewish heritage, enjoys a passion for writing, and his father is a wealthy manufacturer of exquisite chocolate; Zophie-Helene is of Christian heritage, is brilliant in math, and her mother is sympathetic to the Jewish people and writes newspaper articles that criticize the Nazis. Both of their families are in danger and the children care deeply for their families. Last, and perhaps the most poignant, are the parents who relinquish their children to strangers in the hope that the children will find safety in another country. Could you give your child to a stranger and hope that your sacrificial act will save her/his life? Of course, the story involves brave children who were both trusting and fearful. Most of the children, even though their lives were spared, were probably never reunited with their parents.
Writing: In addition to a compelling story, The Last Train to London is definitely well written and well researched. Fans of histfic who anticipate a great deal of historical content will not be disappointed. Told primarily from the perspectives of Tante Truus, Stephan, and Zophie, the story takes time to build and merge the two separate story lines. At first, I found it challenging to switch between the perspectives until I could envision how they would connect. Once they connected, the story was unputdownable. One more small detail is the author’s effort to write thoughtful chapter titles! I looked forward to each one.
This is the type of story in which trusting the writer at the beginning as characters are introduced and the plot builds has a definite payoff.
Thought-Provoking Themes: Bravery, determination, difference makers, hope, rebellion, resiliency, friendship, and motherhood.
Content Consideration: WW11 hardships (no concentration camp)
Recommended: I wholeheartedly recommend The Last Train to London for fans of historical fiction, for readers who appreciate reading about a real-life hero, for those who love heartfelt and emotional stories of rescue and bravery, and for book clubs. I think you might be fascinated by this engaging story of a woman whose life’s work was “rescuing children.”
Special thanks to Davida at the Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for bringing the book to my attention with her thoughtful review.
Related: The theme of giving up your child in hopes of saving his/her life is also a theme found in this poignant WW11 book, The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke.
My Rating: 5 Stars
Meet the Author, Meg Waite Clayton
New York Times bestselling author Meg Waite Clayton’s seventh novel, The Last Train to London, (Harper Books, September 2019, and forthcoming in 18 languages) is based on the true story of the Kindertransport rescue of ten thousand children from Nazi-occupied Europe—and one brave woman who helped them escape. Her prior novels include the Langum-Prize honored The Race for Paris, the #1 Amazon fiction bestseller Beautiful Exiles, and The Wednesday Sisters, one of Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Essential Best Friend Novels of all time. A graduate of the University of Michigan and its law school, she has also written for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes, Runners World, and public radio, often on the subject of the particular challenges women face. megwaiteclayton.com; facebook.com/novelistmeg; @megwclayton
Do you enjoy historical fiction that features real-life heroes?
Is The Last Train to London on your TBR?
Winter 2019 TBR (finished!)
(Spring TBR coming soon!)
10 Inspirational Reads for Women’s History Month
(today’s review belongs on the list!)
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