Book Review: The Girl From The Train

A book review?  Really?  That’s right…a book review. 

I will from time to time write reviews of books that I have read recently,

because they are, after all, still media…although not high tech or have to do with news media relationships, they are a nice way to break up content and go to that creative side of the brain that loves a good story.  And as you may have come to realize, the ways of the news media can be a bit self-serving these days and predictable, so a break is always welcome.

The Girl FROM The Train.  I wrote the preposition ‘from’ in all capitals in the title because I don’t want readers to be confused with another fairly recent novel with a very similar name but with a different preposition…’on.’  The Girl From The Train is a historical novel set back during the closing days of World War II.  This was an international bestseller from author Irma Joubert first published in 2007 and later translated to English and published in 2015 by Thomas Nelson.

First off, historical fiction is likely one of my favorite genres of reading.  That said, what makes me want to go on reading is just good storytelling. Quality relationships and plot in a stimulating setting are the elements I look for and this story delivered.

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt manages to escape the whole catastrophe before it happens. But it leaves her in a country that hates her people.

To give a brief summary without giving too much away, the story follows a young Polish soldier named Jakob Kowalski who opens the story placing explosives on a bridge to blow up a scheduled German troop train.  It instead tragically obliterates the bridge as an unscheduled transport of civilian “inferiors” heads towards Auschwitz.  Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt manages to escape the whole catastrophe before it happens. But it leaves her in a country that hates her people. Jakob finds Gretl and realizes the disaster he and his fellow saboteurs created so, out of a sense of compassion, he ends up taking care of her for some three years. But the story follows their lives as they have to go their separate ways that span years, oceans and continents.  They both have secrets they know are best left alone, but are eventually dug up. That means there’s a lot to deal with, not just within themselves but also the people closest to them.

Irma Joubert is a quality writer who should be widely read in the U.S. and I think will be since the storylines she creates could very well translate to film, given a screenwriter and production house out there that could give it a quality treatment.

While there are times you wish the author could have given a little wider window into the thoughts, fears, joy, and sadness that both main characters were experiencing, pacing in the story is also important.  I think the balance was pretty well structured.  There is a reason this was an international bestseller.  Irma Joubert is a quality writer who should be widely read in the U.S. and I think will be since the storylines she creates could very well translate to film, given a screenwriter and production house out there that could give it a quality treatment.  Out of a 5 scale, I would give this novel a 4…one of the best I’ve read in about a year or so.

Joubert is a native South African who is a regular on the bestseller lists there and in the Netherlands. This novel The Girl From The Train is one of eight from Joubert, but likely her best known with its international appeal.

For other reviews of this same book go to GoodReads and see what others think.

Steve Linscomb worked in the news media for 28 years. Since 2012, he has served as an official spokesperson for a public school district in the San Antonio metro area and is a freelance writer.

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