Title: The Girl From the Train
Author: Irma Joubert
Major Themes: World War II, Germany, Poland, Jews, Holocaust, South Africa, Afrikaans
Synopsis: After her escape from a train on its way to a death camp, a little girl is sent by her rescuer to South Africa to find a better life.
When I read a review of The Girl From the Train on a blog I follow, I was immediately intrigued by the story. Sure enough, it is a fascinating could-have-happened love story.
Gretl and her sister Elza were pushed out of a train full of Jewish people on their way to a concentration camp, by their mother and grandmother, who couldn’t fit through the sides of the car. The girls end up living in the house of a Polish family, but after Elza dies, Gretl ends up being rescued by Jakob, a Resistance fighter. After the war, he sends her to South Africa,where she will have a chance at a better life. Years later, he is forced to flee the Communists in Poland, and ends up in South Africa himself.
Initially, I was disappointed to discover that The Girl From the Train is fiction. I had hoped for a true story, but this did turn out to be very real. It certainly could have happened! Another thing I noticed immediately was that the writing style seemed to be somewhat stilted. Either that improved as the story went on or I got so engrossed in the story that I didn’t notice! When I finished the book and read the author’s biography I understood why it seemed stilted—it was originally written in Afrikaans and recently translated into English. Anyway, the story certainly sucked me in and I had a hard time putting it down, by the time I was a fourth of the way through.
I found the psychological side of the story quite interesting. Gretl, or Grietjie as she was called in South Africa, frequently had nightmares which she couldn’t understand. Until she was willing to be open and honest about her entire life to her adoptive parents, she was never able to find relief. I also appreciated the Christian faith that is a very real and natural part of the story. I could understand Grietjie’s family and their distrust of Catholics, but I also understand how she was able to find Jesus through the work of the Catholic nuns who helped care for her in Poland—God has His people everywhere.
Finally, I appreciated this quote, spoken by Grietjie’s grandfather.
“Grietjie, love is not about excitement and physical desire and attraction. Those things are important, of course. But true love is the core that remains after the infatuation has burned out.”
I received this ebook free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
WARNING: Chapters 2, 4 and 6 each have one or two instances of someone swearing, and beginning in chapter 14 there are a number of times when a kiss is described. Physical relationships never go past kissing, however.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults