The Girl from the Train is a slow but intriguing story that spans 15 years and two continents during tumultuous times. It begins near the end of World War II. Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt has been pushed off a train heading for Auschwitz just in the nick of time. Her father, whom she doesn’t remember, was a German soldier. But her mother, also dead, was a Jew.
Gretl finds herself in the care of Jakob Kowalski, a Polish factory worker and political dissident. But Jakob’s people have little patience for Germans or Jews. As communism begins to consume his country, plunging it into conflict and poverty, Jakob finds a way for Gretl to escape. Keeping her Jewish heritage and Catholic schooling in Poland a secret, he sends her with a group of German orphans to find a new home in South Africa.
Through Gretl’s eyes, readers gain a new understanding of political, religious, and racial issues of the decade and a half following World War II in Europe and South Africa. They also get to enjoy the story of a young girl discovering who she is in the midst of it all. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate this book.
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.