Cover Image: The Last Train to London

The Last Train to London

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Harper and NetGalley for the digital copy in exchange for an honest review! 

Trigger warnings: Miscarriage, suicide, murder, death of a baby. 

This took me a minute to read due to a reading slump, but I'm happy I took my time to read every single word. This book will not let you down, I promise! 

It takes place from 1936-1940 (with an epilogue), and it's told in third-person omniscient (my favorite point of view in novels). It's historical fiction too, so it basically checks off all of the boxes that I need to rate a book five stars. 

This may seem cliché but Geertruida "Tante Truus" Wijsmuller was my favorite character, if not an all-time favorite character! She is married to a man who loves her deeply, but it almost seems like he just wants to have a baby with her. She's a Dutchwoman who sneaks children out of Nazi Germany and takes them to countries that will accept them with open arms. She is told to take six-hundred children (toddlers-17 y/o) to England on Sabbath. She's determined, strong, and accepting. She treats every child like individuals rather than the numbers that are on their clothing. 

Stephen Neuman is a 15-year-old Jewish boy who lives in Austria. His father runs a chocolate store and they are quite wealthy. Stephen wants to become a playwright one day, his idol being a man named Stefan Zweig. The downside is that his mother is ill. She can't do many things on her own. 
Stephen ends up having a crush on Zofie-Helene, a girl whose mother is the editor of Vienna Independent. The death of her father was claimed to be from suicide in a Berlin hotel in 1934. Which is quite an unlikely story. Zofie is also a math prodigy, always throwing numbers around. 

I enjoyed Zofie and Stephan's parts in the novel. I wanted to know how they connected to Truus, and it becomes very clear later in the novel, but I won't spoil it for you. I just didn't find their story super intriguing. Obviously, it was wonderful enough to give five-stars. I think I enjoyed the fact that it was pre-WWII, which I don't read often. I didn't know there were people dedicated to transferring children to safety. 

I highly recommend this book if you love historical fiction! It's definitely one I will soon put on my shelves.
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Tante Truss a woman of faith strength bravery a book of her heroism saving little children from Hitlers torture.This is a moving book based on a true story.Heart wrenching a book I could not put down and will not forget.I will be sharing with friends.#netgalley #st.martins
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The Last Train to London, by Meg Waite Clayton, is an interesting book about the Kindertransports. The story begins slowly (I almost set it aside), but after about 100 pages, it picks up and then I could not put it down. This time in history is frequently written about, but this one is a bit different.  The Kindertransports were for moving the children away from harm to keep them safely tucked away during the war. This story is both informative and heart wrenching.  Not a light read.
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Excellent story about the Kindertransports, a system of getting children out of Nazi-occupied Europe before and during WWII. Innocent children, Stephan and Žofie-Helene are enjoying a simple, safe life in Vienna before the arrival of Hitler's army. Then everything changes. Stephan is Jewish so he is immediately at risk. Žofie-Helene's mother is a writer for an anti-Nazi newspaper so she, too, is in danger. Their only hope is to get out of the country and find safe haven in another country. But how, as children, can they manage that? This is a very detailed, very intense story. Lots of history, but go slowly in the beginning so as not to miss important info.
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The history involved in this type of novel needs to be brought out on a regular basis so that future readers never forget the horror of the times.  This was a new side step into the times...something I had not heard of before but was thrilled to learn of.  The writing was heart felt and thought provoking!
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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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I really wanted to give this book 5 stars but due to the fact that it took close to being 150 pages before I felt like I could not put it down, I have to give it only 4 stars.

There are a few dry chapters as they read like a history book but they are necessary to get the background of how the Kindertransport started in Austria. There are a lot of characters to keep track of in the beginning and at times I had to stop and think who and what their importance was to the story.

I will say, once I got around 150 pages I did not want to put the book down. I found the ending heartbreaking but I do understand that that time is history was full of heartbreak.

The Last Train to London is a worthy read for those readers who love to read about World War 2.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, HarperCollins, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.
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This book wasn't as good as author's previous books, and not as good as other books set during this time. That said, it was just ok.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher!
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This one took me a little bit of time to get into, because there were short chapters from multiple POVs and I had to orient myself around who was who, what they were doing, and where they fit into the story - but I'm so glad I didn't give up because this book was AMAZING. 

I have read a few books about the Kindertransport program in Europe, but this stands out as the best among those that I've read. The research that went into the story was incredible and evident on almost every page, and I was absolutely fascinated by Tante Truus, the real woman out of the Netherlands that helped save more than 10,000 children during World War II.

I can't recommend this book highly enough, truly. It's well worth the read even if you've read many other WWII Hist Fic books - but especially so if you've never read any centered on the Kindertransport programs before.
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I really enjoyed reading this book and finished it in one day I highly recommend for historical fiction lovers
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I remember reading the reviews for this book on Netgalley, so many readers at the time didn’t much care for it that it pushed the book way toward the bottom of my reading list, but then again my interest in historical dramas and WWII  eventually won over and I did end up reading it. And having read it, it is now blatantly obvious where the negative and not so flattering reviews came from. This is definitely the kind of book where the actual plot and the execution vary dramatically. So let’s talk about that. The plot…well, you can’t really go wrong there. Ever since Schindler’s List paved the way, a story of ordinary people displaying extraordinary reserves of courage to defy evil and save lives…that’s epic. The greater the evil, the narrower the odds, the more dramatic it all is. And nothing quite represents evil as a war, especially a war like WWII. And so this is a story of an ordinary Dutch woman named Truus Wijmuller saved a significant number of Jewish children and ushered them mostly to the (relative) safety of England. The mission as dangerous as it sounds, especially after the annexation of Austria. A situation made perilous and close to impossible by evil mastermind behind the Final Solution, someone Truus ends up dealing with directly. So thematically this is story gold, classic tale of heroic deeds, lives saved, etc. The author has obviously done her research, the book has the vivid detailed quality one might associate with the finer historical fiction. But stylistically is where the story falters. In the other reviews I’ve read many readers stated that there were too many characters to juggle. That wasn’t really a thing for me and eventually all these separate plot strings do tie together into a cohesive quilt. But the way the separate narratives were handled wasn’t optimal. The entire novel comprises short chapters of differing perspectives, something more suited to a mystery thriller than a serious drama. And as a result the book is choppy. There is a certain abrupt quality that never really goes away. For all the great characters the novel features, it’s difficult to form an emotional attachment at times because of this choppiness. In musical language, the notes should have been allowed to ring out instead of the staccato delivery. And subsequently the ending comes across somewhat unsatisfactory also. Just when you’re finally invested with the characters, you don’t get to find out what life holds for them. After all, making it to England just as England was entering the war wasn’t exactly a guarantee of safety and security, just a dramatic improvement of the odds. It would have been nice to have an epilogue, the sort that covers the lives of everyone, brief summaries or something. There is something of a sort for the real life Truus and children she saved in the afterword, but in fictionalized world, not so much. In fact, it would be nice to know more about Truus’s life too. Actually, now thinking about it, this would have been something interesting to read about in a work of nonfiction or maybe watch in a biographical program. After all, this was already an extraordinary person who’s done extraordinary things, it can do with more facts, but it doesn’t need fictionalization, especially not a very well done one. The writing itself is perfectly decent, of a variety I normally associate with women’s fiction, not quite emotionally exploitative, but within shouting distance from it. And, inexplicably, everyone has elliptical laughs. Everyone. So yeah, a very long novel that quickly enough due to its short chapter structure, but wasn’t an especially satisfying reading experience. Great story, obviously. Terrific story. The sort of story that might go a long way to improve one’s opinion of people…or do the exact opposite (it is WWII, after all) , depending on your personal outlook. But as a book it’s pretty average. Thanks Netgalley.
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This book is based on a true story and though it is a compelling story to tell, the way the book was set up made it difficult to follow and get to know and really feel for the characters. While it was interesting, there are others out there that are much more engaging.
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I expected a lot after reading the Amazon blurb for this book: “a pre-World War II-era story with the emotional resonance of “Orphan Train” and “All the Light We Cannot See,” centering on the Kindertransports. Those are two of my favorite novels in recent years.

This novel covers 1936 to 1940 as Truus Wijsmuller and her efforts to smuggle Jewish children out of Nazi Germany. The story is told through two viewpoints and short chapters. Truus and fifteen-year-old Stephan Neuman.  

All Stephan want to do is write plays, go to the theater and hang out with his new Zofie-Helene, a Christian girl he meets through his barber. Zofie is a math prodigy. I didn’t understand what she was saying half of the time, and I think contributed to my unfavorable reponse to the story.

As the story opens, Stephan and Zofie live in Vienna, a city on the edge with the imminent threat of a Nazi invasion. The wander through the city, mostly through a complex cave system, popping up here and there, that seemed a tad ludacrious to me.

Truus, a member of the Dutch resistance, begins to smuggle children out of Germany, making more and more trips into the occupied country. Maybe this is my twenty-first century perspective talking, but I found that the way she instructed all the children to call her Tante Truus (Aunt Truus) creepy. I understand that it was necessary given the unforeseeable encouters they would have, but it made me extremely uneasy. Also, I found her sections lacking tension; she never seemed to be in real danger, even when she was escorting thirty children across the border. And that is my biggest complaint of this novel---lack of tension. Never did I feel thatStephan, his five-year-old brother Walter, Zofie, Truus or the children were in life-or-death situations.

Because of the short chapters, I never felt a real connection to any of the characters.  The most positive aspect of ready this lengthy novel is that the name Truus Wijsmuller may now be recognized for the great work that she did. Truus is credited with saving over 10,000 Jewish children from the Nazi horrors.

Due to its lack of tension and the inability to make me connect with the characters,  “The Last Train to London”  receives 2 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.
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I have always been drawn to books about the Holocaust. I did a massive paper on it in college and ever since I felt drawn to the stories. The stories are always heartache and sadness but I always love to focus on the stories of hope and kindness. This book touched my heart so deeply. Espically Truus Wijsmuller. She was a Dutch woman who helped thousands of Jewish children to England. She saved thousands of German and Austrian children from the death camps of the Holocaust. 

The Last Train to London was an amazing book and truly one of my favorite books ever. It’s a historic fiction but you can tell Meg did her research. This story will stick with me forever.
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If you read only one book this fall, make it The Last Train to London. I spent almost the entire time I spent reading it with raised blood pressure, gripping my Kindle tightly in anxious hands as I apprehensively turned each page, worried about the characters I had come to love. I sobbed noisily at the end with relief and sorrow, completely moved by everything that had happened throughout the novel and the bravery and determination of the heroes and heroines of the story. I read quite a lot but no novel this year has gripped me with the fervor I experienced perusing this one.

Stephan Neuman dreams of becoming a famous playwright and loves to immerse himself in the knowledge of the local entertainment scene. He keeps tabs on everything happening at the Burgetheater by paying regular visits to the gossipy barber in the salon located in the basement of the playhouse.  It is here that he meets the lovely and fascinating Žofie-Helene Perger, grand-daughter to the barber, a brilliant math prodigy whose analytical mind serves as the perfect foil for his artistic spirit. Although very different, the two become fast friends, adventuring through the city together and introducing each other to new and heretofore unnoticed marvels of their environs.

Žofie is entranced by the world Stephan shows her. Her father was killed while reporting in Berlin on the Rohm Purge and her mother is the editor of a progressive Austrian anti-Nazi newspaper. Her family doesn’t have much money but Stephan’s family owns one of the most successful chocolate shops in Vienna. From rooms filled with fine crystal and art, to the intricate underground tunnels which run under the city, he introduces her to a magical province she never dreamt of.

Their carefree days come to a halt in March of 1938 with the Anschluss, the incorporation of Austria into Germany.  Stephan, who is Jewish, is familiar with what has been happening in Germany to people of his ethnicity and is immediately concerned for the safety of his family. On the night of the Austrian chancellor’s resignation, he watches in horror as people from his community are beaten and his own home ransacked, his family forced to hide while their possessions are stolen or destroyed. Žofie’s family is not much safer; her mother’s outspoken criticism of Hitler has already drawn the attention of the local Nazi party and journalist Kathe Preger has  come to the attention of those in Germany who are making lists of Austria’s  ‘undesirables’.

There is good amidst the evil, though. Compassionate, courageous Truus Wijsmuller works tirelessly with other members of the Dutch resistance smuggling Jewish children, first out of Germany and then, after Anschluss, out of Austria. The rescues are made increasingly difficult as European countries progressively fall to Hitler and countries like America begin refusing to take refugees. Fortunately, Truus finds a fierce ally in Helen Bentwich, an intelligent, tenacious British woman who, along with her husband, presents the Bentwich-Cohen plan to the government of Great Britain, creating a kindertransport system which will (hopefully) bring kids like Stephan, his younger brother Walter, and Žofie-Helene to safety.

The greatest threat to their endeavors is one the ladies did not plan for. Adolf Eichmann is in charge of the Central Agency for Jewish Emigration in Vienna. A member of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD; Security Service), Eichmann has long been pushing for harsher treatment in relation to Jewish citizenry within Aryan nations. Later to be known for his work on the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, he devises a cruel plan to make the kindertransport impossible. But he doesn’t know the will of Truus and underestimates her ability to work miracles. She is determined to save the children and beat Eichmann at the cruel game he is playing with these precious young lives.

The Last Train to London is a story about the cost of both complicity and courage. The complicity we see in Austria, as people vote to incorporate into Germany and turn to violence and theft against their Jewish neighbors; the complicity of America as it turns away desperate Jewish refugees, even after the horrific events of kristallnacht ; and the complicity of European governments as they watch the terrible, violence-fueled rise of Hitler but refuse to stir themselves to action. That collusion costs millions of lives, making a long, bitter war inevitable but it is matched in small part  by the courage of women like Truus, who rescues children at great risk to herself; Kathe Perger, who writes and publishes the truth about events in Germany and Austria in her newspaper even as the Nazis threaten her with arrest, destroy her publication’s office and threaten her family; and Helen Bentwich who goes to battle with the British government to find a place for children in critical need. Their valiant, dangerous work saves thousands but costs many of those involved in such activity their lives. The narrative weaves these two themes unrelentingly throughout the tale, highlighting the fact that the Nazis’ actions did not happen in a vacuum, but occurred  thanks to the silent cooperation of the majority, with only a few daring souls heroically taking a stand.

The author also does a fantastic job of contrasting horror and joy. I found myself horrified anew by the brutality and cruelty of the Nazis, the way betrayal of friendships occurred as political situations changed, and how the author ties the past to the present. Hearing Eichmann refer to Kathe as a member of the Lugenpresse (the lying press) was chilling given current statements American political figures have made about the media. His speech stating that, “The true spirit of Germany resides in the Volk, in the peasants and the landscape” given society’s recent turn toward nationalism is equally chilling.  But watching the friendship and gradual romance between Stephan and Žofie was absolutely delightful; seeing little Walter mature and become a brave young boy who handled a devastating situation with aplomb and courage  was incredibly heartening, and reading of the bravery of the women who fought so fiercely to give these kids a future was amazing. The text is liberally sprinkled with simple acts of kindness which have an  incredible impact on those in need, reminding us that it can take very little to be of great help.

Ms. Waite is a many times honored author who brings consummate skill to the writing of this complex narrative. I was completely engrossed in the tale almost from the start, the prose encompassing me and making me feel in many ways as though I was experiencing the adventure of life in those terrible times along with the characters. While the initial vignettes at the very start of the book are a bit choppy and stilted, the author quickly settles into a smooth, easily readable composition style which allows her tale to shine.

The Last Train to London is a beautifully written, timely and insightful story which I would encourage everyone to read. It’s not the most cheery book you will pick up this year but it will be one of the most impactful.
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Holy Cow!!! I thought I had read everything that had to do with the Kindertransport, however I missed a lot on my journey to understanding until The Last Train to London rode into my universe. Ms. Clayton has created a world where heartache, Heroism, and horror blend together to honor men and women who tried to do what was best for the Jewish Children of WWII torn German, Austria and the surrounding areas. 

Stephan Neumann Is an ordinary Austrian teenager, however what is inordinately different is that he is a phenomenal writer who loves the brilliant math prodigy, Žofie-Helene Perger daughter of a “rabble rousing journalist” and whose family owns the most famous chocolatier factory in all of Austria. The Last Train to London is his story. It’s also. Madame Geertruida Wijsmuller’s (Tante Truus as she was known to those she saved) story, and the thousands of children she helped save from the terrors of the Concentration Camps of WWII. Those adults that ran the Kindertransport were hero's. They risked their own lives and their families lives into the danger of themselves being residents of any of the horrific concentration camps.  We owe them the stories that are told of them to help open each other’s eyes so we don’t have a repeat of the terror of trying to annihilate a whole race of people. People of the Jewish faith, ones related to me and my German ancestors. People who believe in peace and love. This is their story, this is a story we all should read and learn from. 
I highly recommend The Last Train Of London as not only as a great read, the factual history is dark, deep and revealing AND one that is timely and important.
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3.5 stars rounded up to 4 stars
 
As another worthy entry into the canon of World War II related historical fiction, this book focuses on the famous Kindertransport system that helped to transport thousands of children out of various parts of Europe during the Nazi occupation of the region in the late 1930s, immediately prior to the official start of the war. In particular, the story focuses on the efforts of Truus Wijsmuller, a brave Dutchwoman who dedicated her life to helping countless children escape Nazi-occupied territories, both on her own as well as working with other agencies. 
 
At the center of the story are the Neumans, a wealthy Jewish family whose chocolate-making business is known throughout Austria.  Their teenage son Stephan is a budding playwright who, during the course of getting his haircut one day, meets math genius Zofie-Helene, a young Christian girl around his same age who quickly becomes his best friend and companion going on excursions together throughout the city of Vienna.  Not long after they meet however, the Nazis invade Austria and soon, the 2 youngsters, along with Stephan’s little brother Walter, find themselves having to flee the only home they’d ever known, venturing on a harrowing journey toward an uncertain future where safety and survival are the goal but unfortunately not guaranteed. 
 
Over the years, I’ve read my fair share of WWII era novels and while stories set in this time period can difficult reads emotionally, I will continue to read them because of the importance I’ve always placed on knowing and understanding history as essential in order to learn from it.  While this book did fall into the “necessary read” category for me and I’m definitely glad I read it (especially since my knowledge of the Kindertransports program was very limited prior to reading this), I feel like the story did not have as big of an emotional impact on me as other stories set in this era usually do.    I think part of the reason for this is because of the way the story was formatted, which was basically with super short chapters where the narrative jumped back and forth from one character to another — this caused the story to come across too “choppy” for me and broke the flow a bit, to the point that it made it difficult for me to get into the story and connect with the characters as much as I had expected to.  With that said, the last third or so of the story was actually quite strong and that’s when I started to feel more of a connection with the characters, however by that time, it was already near the end of the story. 
 
Overall though, I still feel that this story has the potential to be a powerful one if better executed, which is why I decided to round up in terms of the rating.  I would also still recommend this one, as the story is a good one and the writing is good as well, it’s just that the format didn’t really work for me personally, but it might be fine for others. 
 
Received ARC from Harper Books (HarperCollins) via NetGalley.
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Meg Waite Clayton says that The Last Train to London "was inspired by and meant to honor Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer and the children she rescued, as well as the many people who made the Kindertransports possible." Although she has taken "smaller liberties" with her fictional story, its spirit and basis remain compellingly true.

It is a story about a time that must never be forgotten. Ironically, it is a contemporary reminder of just how quickly matters can escalate -- with draconian consequences. 

Clayton's story begins in December 1936 which she refers to as "The Time Before." Stephan dreams of being a playwright and Žofie-Helene has already proven herself a brilliant mathematician who is receiving private tutoring. Along with their friend, Deeter, the three dream about their futures as they practice acting out Stephan's characters. They are innocently and blissfully unaware that since 1933 Truus has been using cheap replicas of her jewelry and other tricks to smuggle children past Nazi soldiers into Amsterdam, assisted by Klara Van Lange, her dedicated but naive apprentice. She and her devoted husband, Joop, have suffered the heartbreaking loss of several unborn children. And although they would like nothing more than to raise their own child, Truus is fully cognizant of the risks she takes in order to shepherd little ones to freedom and that her absences from home, coupled with the danger she faces, would force her to abandon her efforts. 

In successive chapters, Clayton's focus alternates between Truus's activities, and those of Stephan and Žofie-Helene. Initially, "everyone was too wrapped up in their own families and their own lives to see the politically darkened clouds piling up on the border between Germany and Austria. Everyone thought Hitler was a passing German fad, that it couldn't happen to Austria, . . . and anyway people had businesses to run and children to raise, parties to attend and portraits to sit for, art to buy." Clayton intersperses news stories from the era that demonstrate the increasingly-strained relationships between European nations, the Nazis' encroachment beyond Germany, and the United States' initial response. The technique is highly effective, as it illustrates the mounting tensions and fears the citizens of those regions felt. Through her storytelling, Clayton demonstrates how desperate matters are gradually becoming, to the point that by 1938 one distraught mother puts her infant daughter, Adele Weiss, into Truus' arms and hurries away as the child cries out for her "Mama!" The baby has no paperwork and Truus must quickly improvise in order to evade detection and the consequences thereof. Even Truus has not yet come to appreciate the depth of love that would cause a mother to hand her child over to perfect strangers in order to give the infant a chance at life, fearing that the little one without papers has jeopardized the passage of the other children. The supervisor advises Truus, "You do my sister a disservice, Frau Wijsmuller. You would have her risk her daughter's life along with her own." 

Matters worsen dramatically for Stephan and his family after the full-scale takeover of Austria by the Nazis. His family is displaced from their palatial home, their company taken from them, and they suffer other devastating losses as they struggle to simply survive. Žofie-Helene, along with her younger sister, Johanna, and their grandfather, Herr Perger, the barber, face their own challenges. Žofie-Helene's mother, like so many other journalists, learns that there is a price associated with truth-telling. 

Power-hungry Eichmann, determined to increase his own influence within the Nazi party, wields terror and destruction with his diabolical machinations, accompanied by his trained German Shepherd, Tier.

The movingly terrifying stories of Truus, and Stephan and Žofie-Helene, do not immediately intersect. By the time they do, Clayton has fully immersed readers in their narratives, ensuring readers' investment in their fates. Truus is not fearless. On the contrary, she is wise and savvy enough to understand the stakes and proceed with cautious determination. She observes, "My father used to say courage isn't the absence of fear, but rather going forward in the face of it." She well knows that the contingency for which one fails to plan is the one that can bring defeat.

Stephan, like the other young people who witnessed the atrocities of the time, matures quickly as he sees what is happening to his country, his family, and the reactions of those around him. He quickly appreciates the depth of betrayal by his fellow citizens and friends as he finds himself caught up in a demonstration where those around him are chanting "One People! One Reich! One Fuhrer!" and he realizes that those "words might well echo through Stephan's head for the rest of his life." Clayton's portrayal of Stephan's coming-of-age is chillingly realistic and heartbreaking. Žofie-Helemeane must likewise come to terms with the evaporation of the future she envisioned and staggering loss. 

And at the heart of the story is the triumph of Truss who, like so many others, is bewildered by what is happening around her. "Where are the decent German people? Why aren't they standing against this? Where are the leaders of the world?" But there is no time to await answers because she is challenged by none other than Eichmann himself. And  unwilling to accept defeat. With the assistance of many other brave souls, the mission is a success, but not without concomitant costs.

The Last Train to London tells but one of the many stories of heroism, bravery, and dedication that ultimately brought defeat to the Nazi regime. Clayton's approach to her subject matter is measured and successful. She demonstrates the impact of history upon her characters with restrained realism which illustrates the depth of their extraordinary resilience and commitment to those they love and the tasks history has assigned to them. Truus is deeply conflicted, questioning why she cannot carry a child to term and feeling that she has let her husband down. She declares, "I'm a woman who can't bear a child in a world that values nothing else from me!" even as Joop assures her that she is "a woman doing important work, in a world that badly needs you." Eventually, in Clayton's handling of her story, Truus finds peace in her fate. "Perhaps this is why God chose to deny us children. Because there would be this greater need, this chance to save so many. Perhaps He saved us the burden of having to choose to risk leaving our own children motherless."

The Last Train to London is powerful, engrossing, and absolutely heartbreaking -- at certain junctures, extremely difficult to continue reading. For that reason, it is a book that needs to be read because it is also full of hope, power, and strength. It is a beautifully crafted reminder that one person can make a difference.
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Meg Waite Clayton (The Race for Paris) highlights dual narratives beginning in Holland and Austria in 1936. In Holland, Truus Wisjmuller-Meijer, a real historical figure, works to help bring Jewish children across the border from Germany. Much of her work focuses on helping orphaned children. In Vienna, Austria, Stephan Neuman dreams of becoming a playwright and enjoys a comfortable life as a member of a family that owns a successful chocolate business. Stephan has developed a crush on Zofie-Helene, a brilliant teenaged mathematician whose mother is a journalist exposing Hitler’s brutalities.

Truus continues her work ferrying children across the border. She enjoys the support of her loving husband Joop, though she laments the fact that they are childless. When the Nazis begin their occupation of Austria, and England joins the war, Truus joins forces with Helen Bentwich, a prominent Englishwoman, to have rescued children placed in homes in England.

After the initial placement of a small number of children, Truus and Helen begin a more substantial undertaking. Truus travels to Austria to meet with Adolf Eichmann, to convince him to permit her to take Jewish children from Vienna to Holland. Eichmann relents, begrudgingly, only if Truus can get exactly 600 children signed up to leave Vienna on a train to emigrate to England.

While organizing the speedy exit of the children in a matter of days, Truus meets Stephan, his little brother Walter, and Zofie-Helene. Stephan has been hiding from the Nazis since they took over his home, but his primary concern is to honor his ill mother’s wishes that Walter is placed on the train out of Vienna. Eichmann has targeted Zofie-Helene’s mother, and her grandfather petitions for her spot on the train. 

Historical novels often detail the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II. But Clayton has veered from a general view of those atrocities, giving voice to those who sacrificed security and sometimes their lives to rescue as many children as possible. Clayton expertly delves into the feelings and thoughts of her characters, making them believable and real, and so much more than just names recorded in a history book. This book is a must-read for any fan of World War II historical fiction.
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Every once in a while, a character in a book touches my soul and inspires me to be a better person. Truss Wijsmuller was such a person. A Dutch woman, she helped to transport over ten thousand German and Austrian children, most of whom were Jewish, to safety in England or other European refuges. I've read about the "Kindersport" as it was known, and one of my friend's grandmother's was one such lucky child who made it to London. I was amazed by the sacrifices that Truus and her husband made during this time. She never had children of her own but I believe her transport truly gave these children a new life because of her actions; she was a mother to them in a unique way. The historical research was excellent. There have been many recent historical fiction books about the Holocaust; this book surpassed my expectations and I highly recommend it!

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for an ARC of this book,  My review is voluntary,.
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