“The Girl from the Train” by Irma Joubert
Review copy source: Fiction Guild
Releases November 3rd, 2015
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
About the Book:
Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. 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 mean 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 home. 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.
This book had an interesting concept, and the plot was definitely interesting. I liked the writing style for the most part, but there was a lot of political-ness that I didn’t quite understand. It was kind of slow for me to get through, especially in the beginning/middle. The end started to speed up a bit, and was more able to capture my attention, but it still didn’t ‘fill me’.
I’ll start with what I liked; there were definitely parts in this book that I enjoyed. I liked the characters – Gretjie and Jakob were very likeable characters! Gretjie’s father was explaining to her how we grow in trials, it was really cool because he used the refining of silver as an example, and he said that God refines us – He knows how long to leave us in the fire, until He can see His image in us. The book explained it way better, but it really was an amazing scene!
While I didn’t hate this book, I did have some concerns:
The romance was…hard to ingest. At times it seemed lovely, but I think it caused more of a stumbling block than a dreamy-romance kind of thing for me. I don’t read a ton of romances, but I don’t mind some romance in books, as long as it is God-centered and clean. The purpose of romance in books should always be to keep God center stage and point back to Him. Keeping it innocent. And I just personally didn’t feel like that occurred much in “The Girl on the Train” – at least for me. Oh it was an interesting romance, to be sure – not the typical story. But after I finished the book, I just didn’t feel…I don’t know; “right”? This book was not building me up in the faith, and for that reason I couldn’t love it.
The romance in itself was probably typical of many books, but it leaves a girl wanting – yearning for what isn’t. I also didn’t care for the kissing. That is an age-old complaint for me in books – kissing before marriage. I know there are many views on this, but for my personal convictions I feel kissing should be saved for marriage. We are to keep ourselves for our spouses, and I think that means saving our kisses too. In the world today, kisses are just nothing. They are casual, they are used often. But they are sacred.
And I want books to encourage that – to encourage romance even after marriage. They portray the fact that bubbly romance can only occur before marriage – but that’s not true! If we save ourselves and enter into God’s covenant of marriage, He will bless us, and of course the romance will be sweeter, if we save ourselves.
I’m going off on a tangent now, aren’t I? :) Those were just my thoughts after finishing this book.
I guess my biggest ‘concern’ and possibly ‘turn-off’ from the book was how the romance left me feeling, and the vast amount of political facts which just didn’t register in my mind.
So, to end, there were interesting aspects of this book, and many may love it – it just wasn’t totally for me.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publishers and Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review which I have given.