(Review) The Girl From the Train by Irma Joubert
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Fiction, World War II, Holocaust, Coming of Age Story.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars for very good to excellent.
Gretl Schmidt is six years old when her Oma pushes her off a train bound for Auschwitz. Gretl survives the tumble with minor abrasions. While waiting in the forest for her sister to find her, the train explodes. Gretl heard the explosion but did not understand what happened. A young Polish man named Jakob Kowalski becomes a surrogate guardian to Gretl. His focus is on the war and resistance effort, but Gretl needs food and protection. Jakob who did not know how to care for a child, became Gretl's advocate and surrogate parent. Communism replaces Hitler after World War II in Poland. Jakob felt it best to send Gretl away to South Africa to have freedom and a chance in life. With tears, Gretl and Jakob part. The later part of the story is Gretl's name change (again) and a new life. However, will Gretl's new life never know Jakob again?
Yes, the story is predictable. Yes, the story has elements of the war and communism, especially its affects on civilians.
The story may cause some people to feel uncomfortable, it depends on your threshold.
I was glad the story portrayed the long-term affects of the war on Gretl. Her dreams, fears, and insecurities were tied to the period of her life during the war. A friend helped her through this dark memory recovery.
I enjoyed reading about Gretl's transformation from frail troubled girl to young woman.
The tied-in romantic relationship of Gretl's is ignored at first by the couple. They understand the complexities of their relationship. I felt the couple analyzed their situation. They viewed life through a logical lens. But love wins.
I am not well-read on South Africa, not its history, climate, geography, nor temperament of people. I understand a little about apartheid. When Gretl was in college it was the mid 1950s.
The following link is information on the "gathering storm" of laws and resistance in the 1950s.
The book does not discuss this history. I believe it might have helped the later part of the book, its environment and atmosphere, to have shared the history of South Africa at this time. The book may have had 50 or more pages added, but I certainly would have enjoyed this element.