There are so many stories to tell of WWII. Those of silent heroes, lives lost, and survivors. The Last Train to London is part of my WWII historical fiction journey and I'm always astounded by how much I continue to learn about this terrible time in history. But then I'm grateful that there are these stories to tell and that there were brave people trying to do what was right when so much was against them.
Meg Waite Clayton tells a somewhat fictional story about the Kindertransport that saved so many children from the Nazi between 1938-1940. I say somewhat fictional because the book is based on a real effort and woman, Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer, who helped bring many children to safety transporting them by train to London. Without her, and the countless others that helped, who knows what would have happened to those children. More than likely they would not have survived.
The author told this story from several perspectives, Geetrudia (aka Tante Truus), Stephan Neuman, Zofie-Helene, and occasionally relatives of Stephan or Zofie. I believe it was a good mixture of perspectives. It enabled details of how it was for Jewish children, non-Jewish families, and those outside of Nazi invasion trying to help save as many lives as they could.
Vienna: Stephen is a teenage boy of a wealthy jewish family whose made their fortunate with their chocolate business. He lives with his family in an affluent home with his younger brother (Walter), father, and very ill mother. Zofie-Helene is a teenage girl whose a brilliant aspiring mathematician. She lives with her grandfather, younger sister, and mother who writes for an anti-Nazi newspaper.
Amsterdam: Truus is unable to have children of her own, but feels that because of this, it is her duty to save as many children she can. So she risks her life countless times for children she doesn't know. To do this she must face and somewhat manipulate Nazi soldiers along the way.
Truus's story is new to me and, by reading this book, I feel that I've kept her memory alive somehow. I would have liked more of the book to be about her journey and what she had to do to save the amount of children she did. But of what there was, I can tell that she was an extremely brave woman. Someone to be admired.
Stephen and Zofie's journeys were very tough and I think Meg was able to capture what it would have been like for them. For Stephen to lose everything and Zofie risking her life for those she loved. I do feel that it needed more detail to give it that one last emotional punch it needed. I really only cried at the very end when Walter (Stephan's younger brother) was being taken away by his adopted family.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book and thought the characters were wonderfully written. I believe Meg did justice to Truus's story even though I wanted more of it. I would highly recommend this book to those that read historical fiction.
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