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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 intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first. Gretl is the only survivor. Though spa 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 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.


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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 intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first. Gretl is the only survivor. Though spa 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 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.

30 review for The Girl From the Train

  1. 4 out of 5

    Savanna Kaiser

    Wow. I’ll say it again. Wow. I was not prepared for this book. The premise and the cover intrigued me, but I had no idea the journey I would be taking. I don’t exaggerate when I say it took my breath away. I know you’ve heard the phrase “I could hardly put it down”. Well, here it comes again. ;) I read this entire book in 2 days. Hold on to your seat, friends! This heartfelt coming-of-age story sweeps through several years and settings. The journey is long, but worth it. My heart was instantly ch Wow. I’ll say it again. Wow. I was not prepared for this book. The premise and the cover intrigued me, but I had no idea the journey I would be taking. I don’t exaggerate when I say it took my breath away. I know you’ve heard the phrase “I could hardly put it down”. Well, here it comes again. ;) I read this entire book in 2 days. Hold on to your seat, friends! This heartfelt coming-of-age story sweeps through several years and settings. The journey is long, but worth it. My heart was instantly charmed by the brave, young Gretl, just like Jakob. Following her through the fields of Poland in 1944 to the orphanage in Germany, then on to South Africa in 1956, proved to be an incredible story. I think it’s impossible to finish this book without feeling like you’ve gained a friend or two. Both Gretl and Jakob were such vivid people on the page. I shared in Gretl’s fears and her ambitions and her love for those she loved. It’s not hard to see why she cares for Jakob. He’s strong and faithful, not to mention he’s her hero in every way. Their story is a beautiful one, but please… let them be the ones to tell it. Don’t take my word for it. You should hear it from them. It did take me a little while to adjust to the writing style. Many scenes are short and quick and packed full of detail. But it never drowned the story. It merely built upon the foundation. The historical aspects appeared to be carefully researched. It was impressive, really. I felt like I learned a lot more about the time period. It had a very honest and realistic feel to it. The Girl From The Train is an epic tale of sacrifice and friendship and hope. It’s romantic and it’s healing. The courage of the characters will seep into the readers. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorites for the year! This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to Thomas Nelson and the TNZ Fiction Guild for my copy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Rarely is there a historical novel that that so perfectly places all of its elements in a balanced way. The Girl from the Train is a love story, but it’s not a romance. It’s a book about the consequences and far-reaching effects of war, but also a harrowing coming-of-age tale of overcoming tragedy and lasting friendship. The writing style is sparse at times, but yet says everything that needs to be said. The historical details are captivating and haunting, and the same can be said of the charact Rarely is there a historical novel that that so perfectly places all of its elements in a balanced way. The Girl from the Train is a love story, but it’s not a romance. It’s a book about the consequences and far-reaching effects of war, but also a harrowing coming-of-age tale of overcoming tragedy and lasting friendship. The writing style is sparse at times, but yet says everything that needs to be said. The historical details are captivating and haunting, and the same can be said of the characterization. I’ve read very few, in any, novels of World War II set in Poland. I found the setting here to be fascinating and such a tumultuous backdrop for Gretl’s story. From the farmland of Poland to a new home in South Africa, following Gretl and Jakob’s story was enthralling from page one. The plot is varied in that it starts out with high stakes and many intense events and scenes. I didn’t mind the slower-paced second half as it provided a nice complement to the intensity of the beginning. I’m sorry to admit that this is the first story I’ve ever read concerning the relocation of German orphans to South Africa. It provided an interesting lens through which Gretl viewed the world; despite the uncertainty of her life up until that point, she made every effort to fully engage in her new life. Gretl truly grows up throughout this entire story. Jakob, already mostly grown when they meet, also goes through his own developments. Despite tragedy, horrible circumstances and even their own mistakes, the resiliency that they show throughout the story truly captivated me. I loved these characters and hated to see their story end, even though it was an altogether satisfying conclusion. The ending – what a tender, realistic, well-deserved ending! The Girl from the Train is definitely one of my top picks for 2015. It wasn’t really on my radar at all for this year, and what a sad thing it would have been to have missed it! I have been and will continue to recommend this book to others, especially readers of historical fiction. Thanks to Thomas Nelson and the Fiction Guild for my advance copy. This review is my honest opinion.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    WWII fiction seems to be everywhere today and I have enjoyed many of them. This particular novel left me wanting. I wanted to feel more for these characters. I just felt that as a reader I was kept at a distance; seeing the circumstances surronding the characters but not feeling them. 3.5 stars.

  4. 4 out of 5

    RoseMary Achey

    I have no doubt this will be a popular book club title, however there were several aspects of the book that will prevent me from recommending. First, the love story or romance was quite predicatable. You could see it coming a mile away. Second, religion was such a strong theme in the book-but it quite jumbled. The main character is thrown from a train by her loving Jewish grandmother in an attempt to save her from an unkown future. She is later adopted by a extremely devout Protestant South Afri I have no doubt this will be a popular book club title, however there were several aspects of the book that will prevent me from recommending. First, the love story or romance was quite predicatable. You could see it coming a mile away. Second, religion was such a strong theme in the book-but it quite jumbled. The main character is thrown from a train by her loving Jewish grandmother in an attempt to save her from an unkown future. She is later adopted by a extremely devout Protestant South African family yet her savior is Catholic. Third, the second half of the book was too much like a fairy tale. Once she is adopted by the South African family, the main character's life changes on a dime. These were whites living in south Africa during Aparthied...yet everything was sugar plums and roses with just a passing reference to the country's political unrest. All that being said, many readers want a happy ending and loose ends to be nicely tied up. That is why I feel this will be a popular book club title...not its literary merit.

  5. 4 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    Sort of a World War II light version, missing much of the meat and potatoes usually found, while keeping the sugary dessert table over on the side. I thought it was cute and sweet; not my usual WWII read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Staci

    What I loved most about this novel is the unique way in which Gretl's story unfolds. The Girl from the Train spans over around 15 years from the time Gretl is six to age 21. During this time, Gretl learns to adapt to different environments and changes her identity as needed. This novel is a coming of age story. It is also about overcoming tragedy and resiliency. There is a great deal of history woven into this novel; history of WWII, Poland and Africa specifically. I was drawn to turn the pages What I loved most about this novel is the unique way in which Gretl's story unfolds. The Girl from the Train spans over around 15 years from the time Gretl is six to age 21. During this time, Gretl learns to adapt to different environments and changes her identity as needed. This novel is a coming of age story. It is also about overcoming tragedy and resiliency. There is a great deal of history woven into this novel; history of WWII, Poland and Africa specifically. I was drawn to turn the pages quicky to know what was next for Gretl and Jakob as they brought history to life. The Girl from the Train is highly recommended for readers of historical fiction. Thanks to Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins Christian Publishing for an Advanced Reader's Copy of this novel. The opinions expressed are my own.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    4.5 stars A riveting WW2 story that follows a young girl's life from the moment her mother and grandmother push her off an Auschwitz-bound train into the Polish countryside in order to save her life. The detail is wonderfully memorable and the story absorbing (though at times disturbing). The story of Gretl/Gretchen/Grietje (names depending on her country) is so deep a tale, and I loved Jacob's parts as well (except for the cursing parts from the war scenes). One thing that shocked me was that So 4.5 stars A riveting WW2 story that follows a young girl's life from the moment her mother and grandmother push her off an Auschwitz-bound train into the Polish countryside in order to save her life. The detail is wonderfully memorable and the story absorbing (though at times disturbing). The story of Gretl/Gretchen/Grietje (names depending on her country) is so deep a tale, and I loved Jacob's parts as well (except for the cursing parts from the war scenes). One thing that shocked me was that South Africans actually would have the guts to seek out and adopt "Aryan" children from among the war orphans, that soon after the horrors of what race-superiority could come to. I suppose I had simply thought people in general wouldn't have come out and said anything about being Aryan after seeing what Hitler's abominable racism came to. This gives light-haired Gretl an opportunity to escape Poland's new suppressive government, but necessitates her continuing to keep secrets from her war years, as she fears being cast out for who she is or what she has experienced. Religion: Throughout the book characters go to church and pray...sometimes to God, sometimes to Catholic saints/Mary. I liked the faith content, but when it came down to the divide between the Catholic and Protestant churches, it never specified why there was a divide between the two systems of theology. Obviously it would only make the book longer and less focussed to include it, but it seemed it was hinted/implied that only tradition and prejudice stood between the two rather than true spiritual conviction. (For example: No matter how much I understand about Catholicism, I have real theological reasons to never consider becoming one myself. It isn't personal preference and it isn't tradition.) Content: Best for adults simply because the war-related themes are so heavy. Language: I was very disappointed to find two instances of the heavy curse/derivative of profanity b*y in a war scene. Other language used is cussing using the names of the saints, which didn't bother me by word used but only by principle of cussing being a bad habit.

  8. 4 out of 5

    NancyHelen

    I had to give this book a fairly low rating. It wasn't the subject matter which was a problem, although the story itself was one which we have read many times before. When I read the blurb, I was really curious as Gretl, the main character, was the daughter of a Nazi soldier rather than a Jewish girl, and therefore I thought perhaps this book might provide a different angle on the experience of a child in the Second World War. The issue I had was with the plot and the writing. There is no doubt t I had to give this book a fairly low rating. It wasn't the subject matter which was a problem, although the story itself was one which we have read many times before. When I read the blurb, I was really curious as Gretl, the main character, was the daughter of a Nazi soldier rather than a Jewish girl, and therefore I thought perhaps this book might provide a different angle on the experience of a child in the Second World War. The issue I had was with the plot and the writing. There is no doubt the author was well versed in the history, particularly of Poland during the war. But a novel should wear its history lightly. It should be the background of the fiction. I felt with much of this novel, it was more of a history lesson shoehorned into a fictional format such that the fictional characters were just an excuse to describe actual events. As such it felt dry and there were parts that just lost me completely. When Gretl finally goes to South Africa, I felt the story actually deteriorated. There was a lot of extraneous detail about her life as a child which did very little for the pace or the plot. And then when Jakob finally arrived in South Africa, the romance was almost started too soon and then drawn out. It meant that the thrill of the romance was over and there was still a long way to go. I understand the writer is highly religious and therefore religion played an enormous role in the story, but as someone who isn't religious, it felt too much to me. I wish I could have seen past the flaws, but I just couldn't. And it wasn't just because it was translated as there was nothing wrong with the language itself. It was the whole structure of the novel which let it down.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    5 stars! I absolutely loved this book! One of the best books I've read this year. Will definitely be on my top 12 for 2015! It was about the Jews and WW2 and it mentions Auschwitz, but it wasn't about that at all. It was about a little girl who was on her way to Auschwitz but fled from the train at six years old and was found by a Polish boy/man of 19 years old. He takes her to his family farm where she lives for three years, but they can't keep her for any longer. His real family is growing and 5 stars! I absolutely loved this book! One of the best books I've read this year. Will definitely be on my top 12 for 2015! It was about the Jews and WW2 and it mentions Auschwitz, but it wasn't about that at all. It was about a little girl who was on her way to Auschwitz but fled from the train at six years old and was found by a Polish boy/man of 19 years old. He takes her to his family farm where she lives for three years, but they can't keep her for any longer. His real family is growing and his mother tells him he must find a new home for her. Plus the mother is worried, the little girl is after all, a Jew. He finds an article in the paper where they are looking for Aryans to be adopted by South Africans. He takes her to several orphanages until he finally ends up at a Red Cross one that is aware of the project and says they will take her. He has no idea what happens to her nor she him for ten years. Of course, the book lets the reader know and it's a mesmerizing tale that kept me totally engaged throughout the whole book. Then they find each other. Find out more, buy, borrow, rent the book! Thanks Thomas Nelson and Net Galley for the free e-galley in exchange for a free review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robin Hatcher

    This novel covers approximately 14 years in the life of Gretl, a girl whose maternal grandmother was Jewish. It begins in Poland when a train on its way to one of the death camps is blown up by the Polish resistance, killing Gretl's mother and grandmother. From that moment on, Gretl must assume several identities, not just during the war years when she must pretend to be Polish and Catholic, but later when she becomes German again but Protestant before going to South Africa. It reveals different This novel covers approximately 14 years in the life of Gretl, a girl whose maternal grandmother was Jewish. It begins in Poland when a train on its way to one of the death camps is blown up by the Polish resistance, killing Gretl's mother and grandmother. From that moment on, Gretl must assume several identities, not just during the war years when she must pretend to be Polish and Catholic, but later when she becomes German again but Protestant before going to South Africa. It reveals different kinds of prejudices, often in subtle but profound ways.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    Closer to 3.5 stars-- but gets 3 recorded

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katie Hanna

    DNF for private reasons (meaning, it's a good story but it was stressful to read for me personally). Cannot comment on the quality of the writing, except to say I really liked the two main characters.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    When I began this book, I thought it was going to be a rather light treatment of the effects of the war on a young girl. As I got into it, I found there is more "meat" to it. The skeptic in me wondered about Gretchen being taken to South Africa after the war. I did a little research via internet, and found there were organizations that arranged for war orphans to be adopted by Afrikaners, many of whom had a german heritage. So we follow Gretchen, aka Gretyl and other names, from age four into he When I began this book, I thought it was going to be a rather light treatment of the effects of the war on a young girl. As I got into it, I found there is more "meat" to it. The skeptic in me wondered about Gretchen being taken to South Africa after the war. I did a little research via internet, and found there were organizations that arranged for war orphans to be adopted by Afrikaners, many of whom had a german heritage. So we follow Gretchen, aka Gretyl and other names, from age four into her early womanhood. I am a bit puzzled why this is classed as Christian Fiction because it doesn't dwell on religion. The people that are involved in Gretchens life are caring people and are church-going, too. I really enjoyed the book much more than I thought I would--almost gave it five stars!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jesseca Wheaton

    This book ... I'm just not sure what to think of it. The story line was great, and it had so much potential to be really good, but it just fell flat for me. And nothing that happened in the middle-end felt right. It all felt ... forced, somehow. The idea was great, but I don't know; it just didn't seem to work out well. Also, the romance and beliefs spread throughout it all really frustrated me and I didn't agree with most of it. So that was sad. I had been so looking forward to the book! I did en This book ... I'm just not sure what to think of it. The story line was great, and it had so much potential to be really good, but it just fell flat for me. And nothing that happened in the middle-end felt right. It all felt ... forced, somehow. The idea was great, but I don't know; it just didn't seem to work out well. Also, the romance and beliefs spread throughout it all really frustrated me and I didn't agree with most of it. So that was sad. I had been so looking forward to the book! I did enjoy the beginning! Probably the only way this got three stars from me. ;) So ... yeah. It's not a book I'd read again, nor one I'd recommend.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Natacha Ramos

    First half of the novel: amazing! I was ready to give 5 stars by the time I reached chapter 4. Very, very, very well-written. I could not stop reading. I was completely absorbed by it. I loved where and when the story was set and the complexity of the characters and their culture. Everthing was so real! I could relate easily! I saw a whole new perspective of World War II. It was exciting to learn Poland’s viewpoint in that mess and how some countries react to one another at that time. Russia, Germany First half of the novel: amazing! I was ready to give 5 stars by the time I reached chapter 4. Very, very, very well-written. I could not stop reading. I was completely absorbed by it. I loved where and when the story was set and the complexity of the characters and their culture. Everthing was so real! I could relate easily! I saw a whole new perspective of World War II. It was exciting to learn Poland’s viewpoint in that mess and how some countries react to one another at that time. Russia, Germany, USA, Britain, South Africa. Awesome! Awesome! I enjoyed it very much! Jakób and Gretl relationship was so moving at first. I loved them both from the start. At one point I was not so sure where the story was heading to, but then it all became so clear. It surprised me that you don’t really see the author in the story. You only see the characters and what they’re doing, but she doesn’t tell you what to think. You decide. **** Second half: mixed feelings. I mean, I liked it but it was different. It got all about romance and, in the process, I think it lost part of its essence. I don’t agree with some decisions characters made along the way. I’m not even sure if the author agrees with them either. At the end, I ended up with some questions: What was the point the book tried to prove? Love overcomes it all? Is it truly a christian novel? If it is, shouldn’t the faith issue have weighted more for Jakób and Gretl? It will be a great book to discuss, no doubt! **I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own**

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Another "mixed reaction". If viewed as a play with three acts, I really enjoyed the first act, which provided a lot of information on the Polish resistance and Home Army. The second act, following Gretl's move to South Africa is somewhat less effective, although still interesting; as is Jakób's parallel story in Poland. It was the final act, which while I understand how and why the author ended up there, I could have done without (or, perhaps, with a different approach to a similar outcome). Rel Another "mixed reaction". If viewed as a play with three acts, I really enjoyed the first act, which provided a lot of information on the Polish resistance and Home Army. The second act, following Gretl's move to South Africa is somewhat less effective, although still interesting; as is Jakób's parallel story in Poland. It was the final act, which while I understand how and why the author ended up there, I could have done without (or, perhaps, with a different approach to a similar outcome). Religion plays a very significant role in the book. While this may bother some readers, I was OK with it as part of the story; religion was important in the countries in question and thus in the lives of many of their people. That being said, I think that the message, assuming a message was intended, got lost between the mix of Judaism, Catholicism, and the Protestantism of both Germany and South Africa. Also found it interesting that the political unrest and impacts of apartheid were only mentioned very briefly and in passing. This seems odd for a storyline strongly driven by beliefs and the differences, and similarities, between people. Nonetheless, can give the book a "light" recommendation based in particular on the coverage of World War II in Poland, the South African air drops supporting the Polish resistance, and the adoption of German orphans by Afrikaner families, topics which has not been covered in much depth. And Gretl, as the protagonist, does rather grab your heart.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Rodriguez

    This book Wow I wanted to cry like the whole second half Her story was amazing and agh The feels I couldn't believe the end where she feel in love and gahhhh I'm not even making sense. It was beautiful and the rest of the day I'll be floating around like a ghost doing nothing But the writing was so beautiful and I used the last hour for reading instead of science but whatever Now lemme go cry.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Bridgewater

    I picked up Irma Joubert national bestseller The Girl from the Train because the World War II historical fiction has been picking at my soul. Next to suspense and mysteries, it has become my go to genre for reading. The Girl from the Train mentions a six-year-old girl who jumps the train on the way to Aushwitz. One of the highlights of the book is being told the story from Gretl Schmidt’s perspective. She is only six years old when the story starts and already she has experienced some horrible th I picked up Irma Joubert national bestseller The Girl from the Train because the World War II historical fiction has been picking at my soul. Next to suspense and mysteries, it has become my go to genre for reading. The Girl from the Train mentions a six-year-old girl who jumps the train on the way to Aushwitz. One of the highlights of the book is being told the story from Gretl Schmidt’s perspective. She is only six years old when the story starts and already she has experienced some horrible things. As the story progresses, Gretl matures and starts to understand more about the world around her. She is shipped to Africa and has to learn to survive and be educated there. It is a horrible world that Gretl is brought up in, and I was allowed to watch the injustice done to the Jews in a unique and different way. One of my major issues is the idea of Gretl and her rescuer, Jakob. He is fifteen years older than her when they meet each other for the first time. He brings her home and becomes a brother figure to her as he goes off to work and she learns how to live in Africa with her new family. The thing that really grossed me out is that they start developing romantic feelings for each other. He is fifteen years older than her. It appeared very unrealistic , and I didn’t understand how Joubert could make this fly. Their relationship was wrong in so many ways. Jakob should have just stayed as a brother who supported and loved his little sister, Gretl and allowed her to marry someone else. As for Gretl, I felt horrible for all she had to go through, but I had no real sympathy for her plight. Gretl is a headstrong young woman who lies to become educated and believes she is better than everyone in the family that she was brought into. I really felt no empathy for Gretl. Yes, she had to survive as a young child during the Nazi’s reign, but she was six years old at the end of World War II. She was adopted by a nice Protestant family who loved her the moment they saw her and gave her a nice life with a chance to be educated at a fine university. The entire conflict for the novel besides the external World War II and Gretl being a Nazi really only occurs in Gretl head. She has nightmares that she can’t explain and moves forward in her life, but nothing remotely dangerous actually occurs to her. Like I already stated, by the time she turned six, World War II is behind her and she moves onto to nicer home after nicer home. No real conflict. I really don’t understand what all the praise and gushing about The Girl from the Train is about. I really did not enjoy this novel. I actually stopped about half way through and put it away for a couple of weeks before dragging myself back to finish it. I really did not like it. It wasn’t what I expected. Boring to me, Irma Joubert’s novel The Girl from the Train had lackluster characters who had a brother sister relationship that bloomed into romance for no apparent reason. The World War II background is skipped over and used only in the first couple of chapters. It wasn’t important to understanding the characters. To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend fans of true World War II history to read this book. There is no dilemma except in Gretl’s head. I received a complimentary copy of Irma Joubert’s The Girl from the Train from Thomas Nelson and the opinions stated are all my own.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Judy Collins

    A special thank you to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Irma Joubert delivers a moving and compelling WWII exploration, infused with history --THE GIRL FROM THE TRAIN. A stunning well-researched, coming-of-age tale; reiterating how the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war. A strong bond of love, hope, and enduring courage-- withstand obstacles, time and place. Beautifully written, a tale of a young Jewish girl bound for Auschwitz, encountering J A special thank you to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Irma Joubert delivers a moving and compelling WWII exploration, infused with history --THE GIRL FROM THE TRAIN. A stunning well-researched, coming-of-age tale; reiterating how the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war. A strong bond of love, hope, and enduring courage-- withstand obstacles, time and place. Beautifully written, a tale of a young Jewish girl bound for Auschwitz, encountering Jakob, a fighter for the Polish resistance who is determined to reunite her with her family. In 1944 when 6 year-old Gretl Schmidt drops from a transport train headed to Auschwitz. She is found by Jakob Kowlaski, a young Polish rebel, whose life will become connected to her over the course of the years. Being a German Jew - The Polish despise Germans and the Germans despise Jews. Her family is left with little options---they decide to sneak Gretl and her sister Elza off the train. Gretl’s family connections places her in a difficult position-- Jakob has to lie about her background in order to keep her safe. Eventually Jakob must consider his family first and surrender Gretl to a German orphanage. The historical facts are rich and plentiful, crossing geographical areas, as well as diverse faiths. The two settle in different parts of world, and destined to be reunited years later. There are so many factors working here and the author pulls it off seamlessly. As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Russia and Germany. 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—his 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. What a powerful story! Your heart will go out to Gretl and Jakob. Gretl experiences all sorts of emotions from and of course Jakob --a true hero. She soon learns from an early age—tragedy, loss, betrayal, suffering and prejudice. A mix of romance, historical fiction, courage, and hope. THE GIRL FROM THE TRAIN, will transport you to another place and time, leaving you fully immersed in the story----making you feel as though you are there with them- every step of the way. Historical fans will devour. At heart, a moving love story. If you loved the book, highly recommend Peter Golden’s Wherever There is Light. JDCMustReadBooks

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    One of my favorite things when reading historical fiction, is when it makes me want to read more about the topic. The Girl From the Train did just that and it was such a unique era (mainly post WWII) and location (mainly South Africa). Not only that, I really enjoyed the story too. The history involved in this story was my favorite part. I had no clue German orphans were sent to South Africa after the war (and the requirements they wanted). For having studied WWII, I felt like a major fake studen One of my favorite things when reading historical fiction, is when it makes me want to read more about the topic. The Girl From the Train did just that and it was such a unique era (mainly post WWII) and location (mainly South Africa). Not only that, I really enjoyed the story too. The history involved in this story was my favorite part. I had no clue German orphans were sent to South Africa after the war (and the requirements they wanted). For having studied WWII, I felt like a major fake student for not even knowing this. I’m definitely now more curious, so would love for, say, a movie of some sort to come out. Thanks Hollywood for handling that. I really loved Gretl and Jakób. Gretl is charming and I enjoyed seeing her development with all she went through. Same with Jakób – to see your country go the way it did after a world war…what a time period to live through. I really enjoyed seeing them through the years, the roles of Catholicism and Protestantism, and about South Africa. I would have enjoyed seeing how the happenings of South Africa at that time affected our characters as well, but I still enjoyed Gretl and Jakób’s story. As with anything that is translated into English, I’m curious if there’s something I missed (like depth of emotion, connection, feelings, etc) due to translation. While I fully enjoyed the novel and the story it tells, that’s always in the back of my mind. Like what do other languages miss out on in works originally written in English?? I need to follow Tolkien and get my language study going :). What’s a favorite translated book of yours? Originally posted: http://booksandbeverages.org/2016/09/...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    This story was captivating. I was hooked from the start, not only by the setting (I have a soft spot for stories taking place in Poland because my heritage is Polish :) ) but the need to know what happens to the little girl who escapes a train just before it explodes. I was expecting it to be mostly a WWII story but a lot of the book focuses on a time when Communism was a big political force in Poland, as well as on South African history. It was really interesting to read, and the author did a g This story was captivating. I was hooked from the start, not only by the setting (I have a soft spot for stories taking place in Poland because my heritage is Polish :) ) but the need to know what happens to the little girl who escapes a train just before it explodes. I was expecting it to be mostly a WWII story but a lot of the book focuses on a time when Communism was a big political force in Poland, as well as on South African history. It was really interesting to read, and the author did a good job making the story flow without adding too many history details. It almost felt like I was reading two separate stories- Gretl's growing up in South Africa was that different from her childhood in Europe. But the stories come back together in the latter third of the book for a satisfying conclusion. I really enjoyed it and couldn't put it down! 4.5 stars.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Skip

    Written in Afrikaans, this is the first book of Irma Joubert's translated into English. Two sisters manage to jump off a train bound for Aushwitz, assured by their mother and grandmother that they will follow. Polish militant Jakób Kowalski plants a bomb on the tracks to blow up a German train, but the wrong train is destroyed. He saves the two sisters, but the older one dies immediately from a disease, leaving the 20-year old Catholic in charge of the clever and brave 6-year old Gretl Schmidt. Written in Afrikaans, this is the first book of Irma Joubert's translated into English. Two sisters manage to jump off a train bound for Aushwitz, assured by their mother and grandmother that they will follow. Polish militant Jakób Kowalski plants a bomb on the tracks to blow up a German train, but the wrong train is destroyed. He saves the two sisters, but the older one dies immediately from a disease, leaving the 20-year old Catholic in charge of the clever and brave 6-year old Gretl Schmidt. Jakób eventually sends the renamed Grechen to be adopted by a South African family, where she finally finds a loving family. The story is touching at the beginning and end, but sags significantly in the middle.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emilee

    This was a wonderful story. I always enjoy the coming-of-age theme. The book starts out when Gretl is only six years old and takes you through to her early twenties. Her character is absolutely precious.The relationships throughout the book are very relatable. The history is so well written. I was very impressed with the whole story. Love stories are sometimes predictable but this one was not. I was completely taken in to Gretl's world. It was so tender at times that it took my breath away. If y This was a wonderful story. I always enjoy the coming-of-age theme. The book starts out when Gretl is only six years old and takes you through to her early twenties. Her character is absolutely precious.The relationships throughout the book are very relatable. The history is so well written. I was very impressed with the whole story. Love stories are sometimes predictable but this one was not. I was completely taken in to Gretl's world. It was so tender at times that it took my breath away. If you love a good historical, this is a MUST READ!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Reay

    I've read lots of WWII, but never from the view of a South African writer and what that meant, even through the lens of a fictional tale, for that country. I completely enjoy this story. Gretz (she goes through a few names) and Jakob are so well drawn -- and the end is a bit of sighing and swoony fun. :)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey (Books for Christian Girls)

    About this 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 peop About this 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.” Series: As of now, no. Spiritual Content- ‘H’s are capital when referring to God; Bible reading; Scriptures are read & discussed; Many Prayers & Prayers to Mary; Talks about Prayers; Going to Church, Mass & Sunday School; Talks about the Jewish & Catholic faith; Crossing & the Catholic faith; Mentions of Mass & Church going; Mentions of being good to get into Heaven; Many mentions of Christmas; Many, many, many mentions of those in the Bible & the Madonna; *Note: A mention of superstition; Mentions of hell & hellfire; A threat of “I’ll give them hell.”. Negative Content- Minor cussing including: a ‘bloody hell’, a form of ‘shut up’, four ‘bloody’s, four forms of ‘dumb’, and 12 ‘stupid’s; Mentions of curses said, but not written; Lots of Fighting, fires, blood, death, bombs, pain, guns, being shot, & killing (semi-detailed to detailed); Bombs, deaths & screams (semi-detailed); Gretl’s father was shot; Lots of social drinking (Jakób & Grietjie both drink wine, beer or vodka); Many mentions of drinking, vodka & pubs; Mentions of cigarettes & cigars; Mentions of spankings (semi-detailed); Mentions of slaughter animals, eating rats & shooting birds; Mentions of murder & riots; Mentions of gunfire & being shot at (up to semi-detailed); Mentions of concentration camps & ovens. Sexual Content- two forehead kisses, three barely-above-not-detailed kisses, three semi-detailed kisses, and four detailed kisses (one in a man’s POV); Mentions of kisses & remembering kisses (semi-detailed); Mentions of kissing; Touches, Dancing & wanting to touch (borderline semi-detailed // detailed); Lots and Lots of Noticing (semi-detailed to detailed); a ‘b*st*rd’; Mentions of boyfriends & dating; A mention of a woman who is “seductively neutral”; Mentions of pinky toes seducing men (with a mention of parts of the female anatomy that’s “a lot seductive than picky toes!”); A couple mentions of getting into bed with a political group; Mentions of pictures of South Africans wearing nothing but beads & women wearing nothing at all; Mentions of physical desire & attraction; Two mentions of a honeymoon; Love, thinking you’re in love, falling in love & the emotions; -Gretl Schmidt, age 6-21 -Jakób Kowalski, age 21-34 P.O.V. switches between them. Set in 1944-1958 320 pages ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* Pre Teens- One Star New Teens- One Star Early High School Teens- One Star Older High School Teens- One Star My personal Rating- One Star *Spoiler Free Final Thoughts* Recently, I’ve been staying away from World War Two stories due to my sensitive heart. And the fact that I can’t change anything about what I’m reading. (I can’t be the only one who thinks that.) WWII is a hard time in history to read about. At the beginning of this book, I thought Gretl was sweet, but the book would probably be getting a two-star rating from me, due to the social drinking, language and fight scenes. I did not know that this would be a romance novel, so that was an unpleasant surprise. *NOT Spoiler Free Final Thoughts* (view spoiler)[Gretl & Jakób are 14—excuse me, 13 and a half—years a part in it. Half-way in, when the romance starts in, Jakób, being 33, thinks he’s falling in love and kisses a girl—detailed. In his POV. Um, awkward. Then the author pushes Gretl & Jakób together and a crazy amount of noticing happens. I really, really, really dislike the age gap between Gretl & Jakób. She was 6 and he was 21 when they first met, and 21 and 34 when they marry. I’m sorry, I’m weirded out by that age difference. Not a fan of that part of the plot at all. (hide spoiler)] *End of Spoilers* *Spoiler Free Final Thoughts* The Spiritual Content in the first half was great, but the latter half didn’t even have a 1/4th of content in the first half. I can’t in good confidence give a book with four detailed kiss (including one in a guy’s POV), an insane amount of noticing, and lots of social drinking anything higher than a 1-star rating. Link to review: http://booksforchristiangirls.blogspo... *BFCG may (Read the review to see) recommend this book by this author. It does not mean I recommend all the books by this author. *I received this book for free from the Publisher (Thomas Nelson) for this honest review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    April Jones

    I cannot get enough of this author. This is the third book of hers I have read, which left me in a dreamy fog. I loved every character. I felt every emotion, rich and deep. I didn't want the story to end.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Lane

    All I have to say is WOW! On a train bound for Aushwitz, little Gretl Scgnudt and her sister are steered by their mother to jump from the train in the darkness of night. Jakob Kowalski is part of a resistance who are setting up to blow up and destroy a German troop transport train, only there is an unscheduled train bound for Aushwitz. The bridge is blown up and the trains falls and bursts into flames. At the time, Gretl has no idea that the remainder of her family are dead, with the exception of All I have to say is WOW! On a train bound for Aushwitz, little Gretl Scgnudt and her sister are steered by their mother to jump from the train in the darkness of night. Jakob Kowalski is part of a resistance who are setting up to blow up and destroy a German troop transport train, only there is an unscheduled train bound for Aushwitz. The bridge is blown up and the trains falls and bursts into flames. At the time, Gretl has no idea that the remainder of her family are dead, with the exception of her sister who soon dies. Gretl is taken in and the family that has her does not want a German Jew among them and say they can barely afford to feed their own. Due to some guilt, Jakob takes Gretl along with him. They build a friendship and trust, but about 3 years later he can no longer care for her and as he is taking her away, reads an article that changes both of their lives. Gretl is sent to an orphanage where she is adopted by a South African couple who are Protestant and taken to their country. Gretl leads a beautiful life with her new adoptive family. She fits in but at the back of her mind she knows she is a German Jew and is afraid that the knowledge will make her new family not love her. Years later when she is in college, she reconnects with Jakob, but can the friendship they had withstand the telling of her story and her heritage. This is a story of love, redemption and a time in our history when cultural boundaries where more difficult to penetrate. This is my first book by Irma Joubert and I cannot praise it highly enough. I was entranced with the story from the beginning and could not put it down as my heart raced to see what would happen next. Brilliant! 5 stars

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    I have to admit that I was nervous about reading this book. I received it for review and heard great things about it, but from the back cover description, I did not think that I would like this story. I was very wrong! I was also sure that this would be a very sad tale. I was wrong again! Now, it does have sad moments and horrible things that occur. But this is primarily a glance into the life of a little girl who makes it through extraordinary circumstances. I thought that the path her life took I have to admit that I was nervous about reading this book. I received it for review and heard great things about it, but from the back cover description, I did not think that I would like this story. I was very wrong! I was also sure that this would be a very sad tale. I was wrong again! Now, it does have sad moments and horrible things that occur. But this is primarily a glance into the life of a little girl who makes it through extraordinary circumstances. I thought that the path her life took was very interesting. It was eye opening to see how some people treated her so badly, while others, such as Jakob, cared about her. I loved seeing how Gretl thrived and persevered regardless of the situation. She was a very smart girl. I was especially interested in learning so much about both the Polish culture and the South African culture. The author did such a good job of making it captivating to learn specific things about these various people and places that had such an impact on Gretl. There was a gentle romance that really made the last quarter of the story very good. I am glad to have been happily surprised by The Girl From the Train. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. https://brittreadsfiction.wordpress.c...

  29. 5 out of 5

    JonathanT

    Well, this was beautifully written, but unfortunately this book really wasn't for me. The second half is almost entirely the romance, something I wasn't expecting. And I think that the overriding theme was something along the lines of 'Love is more important than anyone's beliefs,' seeing as the romance features a Catholic guy and a Protestant girl. Also I thought the romance was focused mostly on externals. So yeah. I definitely think this would hold more of an appeal to girls. :)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julia Grundling

    Wow - hierdie boek kan gerus 'n 5 ster kry. Sjoe - ek het dit so baie geniet. Dit was nie jou tipiese liefdestorie nie - want anders sou ek nie daarvan gehou het nie. Die karakters was baie "real" gewees en ek kon die rou emosies voel. Dis inderdaad baie goed geskryf. 'n Mens wonder heeltyd hoe gaan iets uitwerk en wat gaan gebeur en dit is veral hoekom ek van die boek gehou het - nie voorspelbaar nie. Dis sooo 'n pragtige storie. Ek wil nie te veel weggee nie, so dis eers genoeg ... :)

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