The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert


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.

I loved this story. But I did have some major problems with the last third of it, but I will get to that. Warning: the end of this review will contain a SPOILERS section where I voice my problems with this book and the reason I rated three stars.
This book follows a girl named Gretl. It opens when her mother dies. I loved how this story was told, and the characters therein. Gretl Schmidt leaped off of the page into into my life. I did expect this book to be very intense, and while it was intense in the beginning and in the end, I felt the middle did drag a bit. But understandably, the drag was a necessary view into the life Gretl was beginning to have and important to the evolution of her character. I really liked the way this story took place. It followed Gretl from age six to age twenty but yet isn’t a huge book. This book is told mostly from Gretl’s POV, though it does switch at times from her POV to Jakob’s.
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SPOILER SECTION
One of my main problems with this book is the romance. Near the very end, Gretl realizes she is in love with Jakob, who is 13+ years older than her. I enjoy the occasional love story with an older man and a younger woman but it just didn’t seem to work with Gretl and Jakob. It seemed a bit weird to have a romance between a girl and the older man she’d known basically her whole life. I guess I had a bit of a problem getting past how Gretl was six and then she grew up very quickly and suddenly she’s in love with Jakob. I didn’t agree with this part of the story. I would have preferred for Gretl and Jakob to just be the best of friends and have her meet a lovely young man someday.

Three out of five stars. Overall a good read, but the ending wasn’t right for me.

FOR THE PARENTS

There is mild kissing in this book, mild violence, and I don’t think there’s any cussing. 

*I received an ARC copy of this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion
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