Book: The Last Train to London
Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Who should read this book: Historical fiction fans, especially pre and during WW2
Trigger warning: miscarriage
First let me say thank you very much to @HarperCollinsCa for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. This one comes out tomorrow and I highly recommend it. This was a tragic tale, it was very sad but also it was full of hope. I spent the whole book rooting for the characters, praying they made it out of Germany before the war started.
Plot 2/2 points: The story follows a few different characters leading up to WW2. There is a Jewish boy named Stephan that comes from a rich family in Austria. There is Zofie-Helene the, pretty and interesting girl he meets at the barbershop, her mother is a journalist that the Nazi party have their eye on. There is Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi party member that works to dismantle the Austrian government and help the Nazi party take over. And then there is Tante Truus, or Geertruida Wijsmuller, a Dutchwoman from Amsterdam that begins bringing children out of Germany into Holland as early as 1933.
The story of these characters start out separately and slowly converge together. Tante Truus was the woman who helped rescue almost 10,000 children from Germany and Austria before the war even began. As soon as the Nazi party took power in 1933, the Dutch were aware of the impending doom. Truus and others worked together to smuggle children to safety in Holland. As things escalated she worked with others in London to send children there, even further away from Germany. 3/4 of those children were Jewish, but a lot of them were also children like Zofie, whose parents were speaking out against the Nazi’s and therefore putting their children and themselves in danger.
The plot mostly follows Stephan and his escape from Austria as a young Jewish man. Zofie helps him and because of her mother, she has to leave too. The plot moved quickly but the characters were so well written. I felt for all of them so quickly and I fell in love with Tante Truus. Her life was so hard and she still had an overwhelming level of compassion for these misplaced children.
Writing 1/2 points: The characters were wonderful, the dialogue was great, the love story was adorable. But the chapters were sometimes so short that I was left wanting. The story jumps around a lot with all the characters which I don’t mind. I just wished some chapters were longer and I felt a little frustrated that I didn’t get enough of that character. However, it did make the story fly by.
Hook 2/2 points: I was immediately in. The first chapter is Truus narrowly making it out of Germany with a trunk full of little girls. A daring rescue mission is the first chapter and Truus is so full of love and compassion. Also her relationship with her husband is amazing. They have struggled to have their own child for many years without success, and I think that’s part of the reason she is so willing to help these other kids. Because she really just wants to be a mother. So Truus hooked me in. Then there is a story of young love with Zofie and Stephan that is also adorable.
Historical Accuracy 2/2 points: Meg Waite Clayton did an excellent job with the history as far as I could tell. I always read the acknowledgements at the back of a historical fiction to see what the author has to say about what liberties they took. And Clayton stayed pretty close to the truth the whole way, which I love.
Feeling 2/2 points: This was a beautiful book. There is so much hope within the sadness. All of these awful things are happening to thousands of people, thousands of kids. They are being completely torn away from their homes and families, and yet they are hopeful. And there are amazing people waiting on the other side to help them. It was a beautiful tragedy.
Overall I really liked this book and I’m definitely going to look up some of this authors other works.