The Girl From the Train

ByIrma Joubert

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kim scarborough
I've never experienced dialogue that conveys so much information and emotion in so few words. Often only one word.
I only realized after finishing it that the author is Africaans herself, and this is her first work that's been translated into the English. This explained for me why the writing was so different from that of English-speaking authors - in a delightful way.
I also realized that, due to the girl having to learn so many languages in order to survive, much of the dialogue shows how basic much of the conversations would have to have been. It was an effective device, I thought.
I'll just add that from the first page to the last,I was captivated, informed, and truly blessed.
The ending is what a truly good ending should be. Please translate more of this author's works into English!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
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: [...]
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ilana weinberg
I really tried reading through this entire story. But, I just couldn't follow it. The description on the back did draw me. As did the cover. The title of the book could've been a little more catchy. I think for others this could be a story they can read and follow along.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for my honest and unbiased review.
The Girl Who Lived: A Thrilling Suspense Novel :: The Martian Chronicles (SparkNotes Literature Guide) (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) :: El marciano/ The Martian (Spanish Edition) :: The Martian Chronicles :: THE SIX: A Smart, Dark, Enticing Thriller
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jessica starjessreads
A very good book. Interesting characters. Seeing how WWII affected the children of Europe was fascinating. Hearing how the father In South Africa explained that he doubted the Holocaust then changed his mind when he heard his daughter's story was touching. This is a very good means to add the human side to the facts of history.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
debra l
Kind of odd to end with not an exact line from Hello Young Lovers, especially when the story drew no parallels to The King and I. The story was very interesting at the beginning although I wondered if this was written for children. I'm guessing it's written on about a fifth grade reading level. Towards the end I kept wondering if the book was ever going to end. It did, and quite predictably. Lots of unnecessary information and details that didn't contribute to the overall theme. Anyway, Ill now go to bed whistling a happy tune while I try to figure out why in the world the author chose Grandpa John's closing words from that particular show.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
andy harrison
I rarely put down a book without finishing it and I gave this one over half the book in length but it's just not good. Weak character development and the story line d-r-a-g-s. I hate to give such a critical review but was surprised this was even published.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
harry chandler
The Girl from the Train uniquely 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. At times the storyline of The Girl from the Train got a little to "political" for my liking, but that might be because political reading is just not my thing. The author does a great job in getting the details right in the harsh settings of occupied Poland, both Nazi and Soviet. The world of secrecy, betrayal, and societal fear makes the reader sweat bullets right along with Jacob.

The story, while based upon tragic historical events, was very hopeful and I enjoyed the historical action intertwined within the plot. 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 young Polish man, Jakób who is a freedom fighter. He takes Gretl to his family farm where he can protect and keep her safe, and she stays there for three years. There grows friendship between two of them, even there is 13 years gap in age. Jakób's family is growing and his mother tells him he must find a new home for the Jewish girl. Jakób finds an an article in the paper where they are looking for Aryans to be adopted by South Africans. Jakób takes Gretl to some orphanages until he finally ends up at a Red Cross, where they are aware of the project and they say they will take Gretl. (Personally, I never knew German orphans were sent to South Africa.) From that time on, Jakób has no idea what happens to Gretl nor does Gretl know about Jakób's life over the next ten years.

After being adopted, she becomes Grietjie Neethling, the beloved daughter of Oom Bernard and Tannie Kate Neethling. Grietjie begins to learn Afrikaans and English and studies scripture at Sunday school, all the while dreaming of one day leaving for college and reconnecting with Jakób. Jakób finds her years later, their bond still strong despite years of separation.

This book is a story of war, redemption, and love, but in all honesty, The Girl from the Train was kind of slow for me - especially the beginning to the middle. I stuck with it though, and by the second half of the book, it began to pick up a bit and keep my attention. I 'm guessing that the reason it took me a little while to get used to the author's writing style has something to do with English not being her first language.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publishers and Fiction Guild in exchange for this post, which is my honest review and unbiased opinion.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
brenda dickson
It is unbelievable that a contemporary South African could write a historical novel set largely in post-World War II South Africa and not mention the issue of Apartheid. The heroine's wonderful adoptive family are Afrikaners, who don't know her Polish background and would not have adopted her if they had. The best of these is cigar smoking, affable Uncle John, the wealthy owner of a gold mine. It is great that he doesn't share the prejudice the rest of the family harbors against Jews and Catholics. But there is not the slightest recognition that his wealth comes at the expense of a race of people, the original inhabitants of South Africa, who are not even mentioned in the book. Unforgivable, especially for a Christian writer. Except, thanks be to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, practically nothing is unforgivable in South Africa.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
bhavyatta bhardwaj
Was extremely disappointed in the Kindle version of this book I think it needs to be rewritten for Kindle, as soon as I get the chapter 2 is done repeating every other page I was just messed up please fix the Kindle version or give me my eight dollars and some odd cents back!!!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
barbarallen mullins
I thought the premise and setting sounded very interesting. It's definitely an aspect of the WWII narrative that I wasn't familiar with. I didn't know they re-homed German orphans in South Africa. From a historical perspective, I learned a lot of details about what life would have been like in the resistance in Poland as well as life as a Jewish child in the ghetto.

This book did keep me turning the pages till the end, but I'm not sure that I could say that I loved it. I felt like the writing was good and that the story was interesting, but the ending just left me scratching my head a little bit.


I had a really difficult time with the romance at the end of the book. I don't know why, but it just felt icky to me for a man that much older than her, who she in all respects viewed as a father figure suddenly becomes her romantic love interest. I think I might have felt a little differently if they had first begun their interactions when she was a teenager and he was in his early 20s, but it seems weird for over half the book to focus around the relationship between a 20-year-old and a 6-10 year old little girl and then suddenly when he re-enters the picture, it's romantic.

I wanted the characters to be happy, but it just felt a little weird for Jacob to make the switch from the rescuer of a 6 year old little girl to her lover.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert is a fabulous historical fiction book! I was drawn into the drama and suspense from the first few pages.

The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert is unique in that it focuses on the time period just after World War II and the turmoil felt by entire countries, especially Poland. The story is built around the main character, a young Jewish German girl named Gretl Schmidt, who becomes orphaned as a direct result of the war. Circumstances leave the child stranded in Poland, homeless and starving.

The details of her rescue by a Polish resistance fighter and the behind the scenes look at life in a post war torn country serve as the foundation for the story. The young child's eventual move to South Africa and placement in a new home continue the thread of determination, commitment, survival, conflict and love that form the structure of the novel. Of course, discovering that the author, Irma Joubert is a native of South Africa where she taught history for 35 years, gives credibility to this book and helps to make it feel even more authentic, despite it's fictional genre.

This book enlightened and informed me as it relates to Poland and the country's internal struggle to maintain their own identity in the years following WWII. I am not a historian and actually was not too attentive during my history classes in school, but this narrative spurred a desire to learn more about the period after WWII and the ripple effect it had on the people in various countries.

The consistent attention to detail and the element of mystery right down to the final chapters of The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert is what sets this work apart from your average read. The author is able to take the reader into the scenes with her descriptive writing. The Biblical factor in this book was unmistakable. The need to rely on God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ was communicated softly without seeming too overbearing. The collision of different cultures, past experiences (both good and bad), age, environment, professional choices and religion each seem to come out unscathed when love is applied. This is not your average "love story" fact it is a tale of what real love...the love of I Corinthians 13... put into action should look like. Enjoy!

Thank you to Thomas Nelson a registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing Inc for this review copy of The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a favorable review, but only to read this book in it's entirety in exchange for my honest opinion.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
toby tottle
The Girl from the Train is a powerful story of tragedy, triumph and love that over comes it all. It captivated me from the beginning and little Gretl Schmidt, stole my heart.

WWII is in full force and Hitler’s evil has begun destroying lives. Through it all a little girl is caught up in the storm. When her wise grandmother manages to force her off of the train bound for Auschwitz, Gretl finds herself alone, afraid and at the mercy of whomever she should come across first.

Jakób Kowolski is determined to fight for the cause of his country but finding a lost little girl changes the course of his life and he finds himself wanting her protection more than anything.

This story is beautifully written and packed full of great quotes. One of my favorites is:

Once, when she told Jakób how she felt about stations, he said, “A station is just the beginning or the end of the destination, Gretz. It’s how you yourself feel at the station that makes it a happy or sad place.”

It’s almost always sad, because people go away,” she persisted.

“But at the other end they arrive at a new destination, and that’s good.”

“Sometimes.” She was thinking of the ghetto and of Auschwitz.”

Pg. 81

Passed from one person, one house, and one name change to another, Gretl Schmidt eventually becomes Grietjie Neethling and through her sorrowful journey of saying goodbye to those she loves, she eventually finds acceptance and love in a family to call her own. But her longing for Jakób never ceases.

My heart broke for little Gretl as she is left behind repeatedly. Unwanted, unloved and rejected by so many…all because of her race. Yet, her courage is undaunted.

I love historical fiction and have read many books set in this time period but this was the first time I’d ever heard of orphan children being sent to Africa. So along with a great story, I got a history lesson.

This book will leave you satisfied because in it, there is comfort and courage. There is joy and sorrow. There is a confidence that love conquers all.

I received this book from The Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my honest review which I’ve provided here.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Girl From the Train is an incredibly beautiful book. In many ways it touched me very similarly to Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. It drew me in, made me smile and cheer, made me cry, made me angry. Through the story of Jakob and Gretz’s life I experienced just about every emotion. Gretz is so strong, so resolute. Jakob is a hero. A very young man who carries many burdens and who is required to make hard choices. He chooses well.

The Girl From the Train is a book that sent me out seeking information. I learned much as I was drawn into Gretz's story. The seeking and the learning was such an integral part of the story for me. Intwined as it were in the life of Gretz who was always learning, always adapting.

The Girl From the Train is a book about overcoming. It is a strong story of heartache and joy. War and peace.

Gretz and Jakob were forced into dealing with the very harsh realities of life during a war. I must point out another harsh reality. There are children right here in the United States living the traumatized life of an unwanted and abused child. I am an adoptive mother of four beautiful, amazing, overcoming foster children who suffered great pain and trauma just as Gretz did. I have a number of friends who have also adopted children from foster care or overseas who also struggle to cope with their abuse. These children have overcome so much and are absolutely incredible yet as Gretz, they will carry their trauma and the effects of it throughout their lives.

I wonder... Is there much of a difference between a child traumatized by war and the loss of loved ones as opposed to a child whose loved ones express hatred towards them and cause them physical and emotional harm? Neither child will ever forget. For the war child the atrocities of invasion and death linger. For the child of abuse there is a very real betrayal by those who should love them most. These children will blame themselves for their parents sins believing they deserved it for something they did. The hurt is different. Both are tragic.

The Girl From the Train was translated from Afrikaans for which I am grateful. I can see why it drew the publisher and it deserves the time that was spent in translation. There are no awkward translation issues. If you didn’t know that it was translated you would never guess. I highly recommend that you pick up a copy. The Girl From the Train is a book that you truly should read for yourself.

I received a review copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. My thanks to the author and publisher.

For all of my reviews visit my blog at www (dot) blessedandbewildered (dot) com
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ruth lahti
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
linda otten
I was really looking forward to reading The Girl From the Train since I heard that it was coming out last year. I haven't read a Holocaust book that hasn't been compelling. I finally got around to reading it in early March but was disappointed to find that I was having such a hard time getting into it. I couldn't put my finger on what was dragging me down, since I did actually like the characters. When I mentioned it to my mom (another voracious book reader) she said that she hadn't been able to get through it either. So I put it aside at page 65 and continued on with other books. This week I decided to try to muddle through it again. First, I was surprised to find that it wasn't really a Holocaust book at all. Most of the book takes place in South Africa, and I found that once I got to that point, the book became compelling, and I finished it in a day. I gave it 4 stars (which is 3 stars on Goodreads), because it did turn out to be a sweet story, and I am glad I read it, but it was only the last half of the book that made me want to keep reading.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This story spans 15 tragic and heartbreaking years during and after World War 2.
6 year old Gretl and her older sister Elza are made to jump from a train bound for Aushwitz by their grandmother who hopes to save them from the horrors of the concentration camp. Just after they get off, the train is ripped to pieces by bombs. Gretl and Zelda are now utterly alone in the world. Orphaned, thirsty, starving, and alone. They are discovered by Jakob who takes them home, but there is very little room for them and Zelda is terribly sick.
As a fan of historical fiction I will say that this is a must read for any other fan. The sheer bravery and strength of character that Gretl shows in the face of suffering such tragic loss in such brutal times had me cheering her on every step of the way.

I received a complimentary copy for review
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
vanessa gonzalez
This author is an accomplished international bestselling author who lives and works in South Africa. This is the first book to be translated from her native Afrikaans language into English. I was captivated by this story and by a brave little girl named Grett Schmidt.

This is a novel that will pull at your heart-strings and give you a perspective of WWII from a six year old’s POV as she deals with her nightmares. I felt for Gretl and Jakob’s situation.

Grett’s family planned to jump from the train that was headed to Auschwitz camp. They would all jump and meet up at the grandmother’s house. The train blew up after Gretl jumped with her sister. She heard the explosion and saw the flames. What would she do now? She was all alone. Her sister didn’t make it.

Jakob Kowalski heard the explosion and ran for his life. He spotted a little girl. His heart went out to this little orphan. He couldn’t leave her behind. Gretl helped out the family for a while on the farm; even when Jakob went away to do work with the revolution in Poland. Gretl was six years old and did her best to fit in and be liked. She stayed about four years; until people started to suspect she might be Jewish.

With the political climax getting hot and the family financial pressures increasing Jakob’s family insisted he find another home for his orphan. He was 21 when he had to make that decision, Gretl had been with his family for 6 years. He tries to find the best place for her. It was hard because she was not the desired age to be adopted even thought she looked younger than her years.. Jakob read an article in a newspaper that tells of kids being adopted and sent to South Africa. They are promised a good home and college education. Gretl was a smart girl and loved to learn. Now to see how to get her into this program.

She remembers what Jakob tells her, “It doesn’t matter what other people are like or even what they call you. You must continue to be Gretl, Gretchen. Do you understand what I’m telling you….Look and listen carefully and make up your own mind. Decide what’s right and what’s good and do it, even if it’s not what you want to do it’s the best way to learn.”

Gretl thought, “I’m German – Lutheran. The people in South Africa must never know I lived in Poland, because they will want to know how I got there. And no one must ever know I have Jewish Blood, that I’m not pure Aryan. And I mustn’t say I learned Russian at school, because the Arrikaners hate the Russians, just as the Poles hate the Germans, and the Germans hate the English.”

Woven into the hardships is a beautiful, tender love story. This young one had to deal with so much. It was hard to keep up each countries hates and likes straight. I liked how this author weaves in historical facts into this heart-wrenching yet hopeful story.

Oh, my I felt for this 10 year old and all she had to keep straight; knowing her life depended on getting things perfect. She knew Jakob wanted what was best for her she could tell he loved her. She had told Jakob how badly she wanted to learn. So this was the best he could do for her. She was on her way to South Africa. She was having second thoughts! Everything would be different. She’d have to learn another language. Her comfort she knew God was with her. She wasn’t alone.

This author Chronicles both Jakob and Gretl’s lives while they were apart. Each having their own challenges to overcome as they and the world around them change.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author I can’t wait for more of her books to be translated into English so I can read more. This is a fascinating read and one that would make a great book club pick. It's a rich layered novel I highly recommend.

About the Author - International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She's the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booklook blog site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jerry cranford
Throughout this book, the author raised the theme of trust and disclosure. How much should a young woman reveal in possible hostile circumstances. Who can she trust? Fortunately, the heroine was good at languages which allowed her to be absorbed into increasingly different situations. This is a book that again reveals the desperation and inventiveness needed for people oppressed by a hostile government. Through it all, she remained intact despite nightmares and other memories intruding. In the end, could she have been happy with anyone else other than one who experienced the same brutality? This was a wonderful book spanning three decades. How the world changes and how different people react to it! I think it is suitable for all audiences and teaches the reader a good lesson about the indomitable human spirit.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jb rowland
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Six year old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz when she and her sister are told to jump by her grandmother and mother. Miraculously the two survive the jump, but Gretl's older sister is gravely ill and soon dies. Gretl, really too young to understand what has been happening to her family, believes that her grandmother and mother plan to jump also and waits in the bushes for them to arrive. Only after hearing a large explosion and seeing the nearby railroad bridge burn, does she realize that she will never see her family again.

Through a rapid series of events, Gretl ends up in the care of Jakob Kowalski, a young Polish freedom fighter, and his family. Gretl, a German by birth, is told to speak only Polish and to never reveal that her grandmother was Jewish. The secrets she and Jakob share keep her safe during the war, but after it ends, Jakob returns Gretl to Germany because German orphans are being given a chance to be adopted by South Africans. Jakob knows the hardships of Poland under the new Communist rule and he wants Gretl in a safe place. As he returns the young girl , now just 10 years old, to the Germany of her birth, Jakob tells her that she must keep even more secrets. She must not reveal her years in Poland or that she has been passing as a Catholic, as the South Africans seeking children only want Protestant orphans.

This book is just wonderful. Gretl's growth from a homeless child into a young adult who deeply loves her adoptive parents, but who needs to face the truth of her past will tear at your heart. To think that hundreds or thousands of young war survivors went on to forge new lives under similar circumstances makes her journey all the more poignant. Jakob's part in the story is equally striking. First, there is the background of the Polish freedom fighters, and the fear that Russia will replace Germany as the power which controls Poland. Then later through Jakob's eyes we get a realistic look into those Communist-run years, and how a simple event of speaking out made him an enemy of the state. Frankly, the South African setting and its conflicts between Protestant Afrikaans and English settlers was totally new to me. I had never heard of the movement to adopt German orphans, and I found the plan fascinating.

The book covers 15 years of Gretl's life, but it flows smoothly from one time period and one setting to another. Irma Jourbert was a history teacher for over 35 years and then turned to writing. Her knowledge of and interest in history certainly shows in this novel which has been translated from the Dutch. If her other books are as interesting as THE GIRL FROM THE TRAIN, I hope they make the transition to American publishers. I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley for my honest opinion.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
abhiroop patel
A young girl narrowly escapes a train on its way to a concentration camp. A man fights the Nazis with every ounce of himself, all the while trying to resolve his ideals with the principles of rising Communism. The two meet, and neither of their lives is ever the same. South African author Irma Joubert introduces readers to her characters for the first time in English in the quietly optimistic novel The Girl from the Train.

At the age of six, Gretl Schmidt has already lived through the ravages of World War II. Her family, ousted first from their home and then a Jewish ghetto, is riding a train through Poland to a concentration camp. A split-second decision saves Gretl but leaves her completely alone, and she wanders the Polish countryside not sure what to do next.

Jakob Kowalski saw Gretl’s train; in fact, he and his comrades planted the bomb on the tracks. He watches in horror as the bomb meant for a train of German troops destroys a train of innocents. When he meets Gretl much later, he doesn’t have the heart to tell her of his role in her family’s death. So he tries to assuage his guilt by taking her home to live with his family.

The Kowalski family, all Catholic, is less than enthusiastic about housing the little girl. Provisions don’t come easily in Poland. The German invasion took most of what everyone has; the Soviets who promise to help Poland by bringing Communism with them almost eradicate the little left. Jakob’s mother, in particular, remains suspicious of Gretl. She looks too German, too Jewish, too much unlike them.

After three years of family pressure, Jakob makes the difficult decision to send Gretl to South Africa through a program designed to help orphans find new families. New Protestant families. South Africans remain just as suspicious of Nazis as many others; they’re even more wary of anyone with any ties to Communism. A connection to a Catholic family can cause a rousing argument. Jakob knows all of this and sends Gretl anyway. Gretl knows all of this and hides all of the most important parts of her past.

Despite living continents apart, however, Gretl and Jakob continue to remain linked by their hearts. When their circumstances bring them back together again, they must decide whether their flowering relationship can withstand society’s expectations. More than all this, however, Gretl must decide whether she can reveal the truth of herself to the family she has now come to think of as her own.

Author Irma Joubert’s first novel to be translated into English will transport readers to another place with a strong tie to the events of World War II. Most interesting to note is the far-reaching affect the war had on so many countries. While some countries dealt with war, others engaged in the effort to help; this juxtaposition offers dozens of possibilities for good characters. In Gretl and Jakob, readers will find characters to love.

Joubert’s novel leans more in the literary direction. After the initial events to set their stories in motion, Gretl and Jakob spend quite a bit of time in introspection and readers get a first-row seat to their ponderings. This approach encourages readers to listen to the characters and watch the story with quietness, almost a solemnity. Because of the plethora of books in this anniversary year of the end of WWII, some readers might appreciate the less noisy quality of this book.

The faith of the various characters does come into play but not in an overt way, and in the end Joubert manages to convey the universal difficulty of facing choices that challenge the heart of a person’s convictions. I highly recommend readers Bookmark The Girl from the Train.

(I exchanged this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
theresa g marone
This novel spans 15 years and three countries: Poland, Germany and South Africa. It begins on a train bound for Auschwitz where we meet six-year old Gretl Schmidt. Remarkably, Gretl gets to start a new life but without her parents and dear loved Oma. We meet Jakob, a twenty-something Pole, a freedom-fighter of sorts, who takes Gretl under his wing. He becomes a father-figure for the orphaned Gretl and Joubert does a marvellous job describing their relationship in a time when Gretl is struggling for acceptance.

Jakob is left with few options but to have Gretl adopted. The South Africans have started a new program to adopt children of Aryan heritage to bolster their population. Joubert had studied many accounts of such children being adopted which served for the inspiration for the novel. Gretl is adopted by a lovely Christian South African family who raise her in their faith.

We skip nine years to discover Jakob has immigrated to South Africa for employment purposes but also to see if he can find Gretl. Gretl is now Grietjie Neethling, about to finish college. The two happen to meet and then begin to reacquaint themselves with each other. Eventually something quite unexpected occurs which creates the momentum for the final third of the novel. Joubert manages this development with tact and sensitivity with some especially delightful scenes with Grietjie's Grandpa John when discussing 'love'.

I loved Grietjie and Jakob as characters. I could relate to them both and in the two time spans we meet them. Yes, I was initially uncomfortable with their increasing romantic feelings for each other but Joubert manages this so well I came to accept it and like her family came to acknowledge that it was a wonderful union.

The descriptions of war torn Poland and barrenness of South Africa were extraordinary. I was able to capture all the scenes visually and have an emotional reaction. Joubert's turn of phrase was often delicious, certainly there were a few oddities no doubt because of the translation from Afrikaans to English, but it was a delight to read. There were moments in the middle which dragged which is common in many novels but generally there was a steady pace. Turning the pages was easy because of the specialness of Grietjie's vulnerability and maturing.

I absolute understand why The Girl From the Train has received such acclaim and do recommend it.

I received an Advance Reader's Copy from Thomas Nelson as part of their Fiction Guild group but this had no bearing on my review of The Girl From the Train.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
hu trang
WWII has fueled many books. Some would say that the WWII has consumed them by fire and in a way it did. For some the consummation was not total; for those lucky souls, they were able to move on, not forget about the war, Hitler, Holocaust, but find a semblance of life. A happy fulfilling life. This is the story of Gretz in Irma Joubert's The Girl From The Train. A waif of an orphan, destined for the ovens of Auschwitz, Gretz is given a second chance. Most of her family though is not. Gretz though is not the typical Jewish girl for her father is an SS solider who is killed on the battlefield before the story opens. Whether he is of the Gestapo variety or an ordinary German father caught up in the war's net is not made clear.

The Girl From The Train is two stories in one. One is Gretz and who she becomes. The other is of the Polish Resistance to the Nazis, and later Russian Communism. It is the story of freedom, enduring freedom. For Gretz, it means leaving her family behind even as they die around her, and assuming one new identity after another, first as a German Protestant, to a Polish Catholic, back to being a German Protestant, and then finally a Protestant anti-Communist Afrikaner in the post-WWII South Africa. The second story is of Poland's struggle to remain free, to not be subsumed by hostile powers, first Germany, then Russia.

Irma Joubert's writing is not the exquisite language of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale or Elizabeth Stuart's The Signature of All Things. It could not be given that part of the story is told by Gretz who is a small child at the story's opening. But it is more than that. The Girl From The Train is a simply written story that is like a onion--many layers to peel, to discover the gems within. Joubert's treatment of the subject matter--WWII, the Polish Resistance and the Holocaust are suitable for older YA readers. Gretz's story is also a coming of age story for today's teen readers.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
becky janes
En route to Auschwitz concentration camp with her family, six-year-old Gretl is spared from certain death when her grandmother helps her jump from the train, right before the Polish resistance accidentally blows up the train with a bomb meant for a German troop transport. One of the young men with the resistance, Jakob, stumbles upon Gretl and ends up rescuing her, forming a strong bond between them that is forged in secrecy. "The Girl From the Train" follows the story of Gretl as she spends 3 years hiding with Jakob's Polish family before she is sent to South Africa where she is adopted by a family who is unaware of her Jewish roots. After a painful goodbye, Jakob and Gretl can only wonder - will they ever see each other again?

I can honestly say that "The Girl From the Train" is one of the most moving novels that I have read this year, and I am not ashamed to say that I was brought to deep tears during the story. The plot itself moves at a fast pace, leading readers from one harrowing scene to another, and even after the war was over I was still racing through the pages as fast as I could to see what lay next in the character's journeys. From the moment I met Gretl, my heart was stolen as I just wanted to reach through the pages and rescue this poor yet amazingly resilient child. And Jakob himself, though not a child, won my sympathies as I watched him making seemingly impossible choices during the war. I cannot imagine living through such horrors, and the ability of these characters to overcome their circumstances surely reflects the real strength of those who truly lived through such situations during World War II. I was particularly intrigued as the author explores differences in culture and religion, particularly as Gretl herself struggles with whether to be a Catholic or Protestant believer, ultimately showing that both are worshipping the same God in a different way.

Though I myself have never read a novel by Joubert, I can see why she is an international bestseller, as "The Girl From the Train" is beautifully written from start to finish. I award this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and the Booklook program, for the purposes of this unbiased review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ashton doyle
Gretl Schmidt, six years old is on a train with her family bound for Auschwitz. Jakob Kowalski who is part of the Polish resistance against Germany and Russia must destroy a German troop transport train and plants a bomb on the tracks. Little did he realize the train he blew up was the on Gretl and her family was riding. She was the only survivor. Although Gretl was spared the Concentration Camp, being a Catholic orphaned German-Jew in a country that is hostile to her people is dangerous. Jakob spends three years caring for her and guarding her secret. When it is no longer safe for her to remain with him, he sends her to South Africa where German orphans are placed with Protestant families. They are promised bright futures as long as no one ever finds out Gretl’s true secret.

Jakob is broken-hearted because he will never be able to see Gretl grow up. Time, events and politics will send Jakob across the continents in search of a safe-haven...Will Gretl and Jakob ever see each other again? Will their hearts ever be able to triumph over the ravages of war? Those questions will be answered as you turn the pages of “The Girl from the Train”.

Few books touch my heart the way this one did. It will be with me long after I read the last page. I was hooked from the very first page. I couldn’t put it down because I had to keep turning the pages to find out what would happen to Jakob and six-year-old Gretl as they struggled to survive the ravages war and to keep the secrets they must in order for them to stay safe. This book is filled with love, trust and forgiveness in the face of adversity. This is truly a must-read book especially if you like books that take place during World War II. I would give this book ten stars!

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this eBook by the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through NetGalley blogger program for review. I was not required to write a favorable review nor was I compensated for my review. The opinions in this review are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
norra l
Wow. There is so many things that I could say about this story, but the first thing that comes to mind is just wow. What a powerful story this is! From the adrenalin rush of jumping off a moving train on page one, to the sweetest ending ever, Gretl's story is one of heartache, pain, joy, happiness, comfort, and finding home. It is easily understandable why this book is an international bestseller!

Gretl completely stole my heart from the first few pages and I loved getting to journey with her as she grew up. I especially enjoyed how much she loved stories and used them to get through her hard places! I can so relate to that. And Jakob. Oh how that boy-man grew into my heart. With a seven year old pretty much thrust upon him, he nevertheless cares for her and strives to get her where she needs to go no matter the cost. Both characters experienced so much hard in their lives, yet they form a little family of their own for the bit they are able and it's wonderful.

I haven't read much WWII fiction, I confess, but I'm so glad I had the privilege of reading this one! Ms. Joubert does a remarkable job with drawing the reader into the characters plight and helping you feel the horror and fear they had to live with every single day. And getting a glimpse of life for the Polish people as well as South Africans was so very interesting. I know nothing of South Africa's history and this was fascinating for me.

There is just something about this story. There truly is. I'm not even sure I can precisely pinpoint what it is, but please believe me when I say that it's well worth your time!

**I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jen dalton
If it were possible to give this a hundred stars, that still would not be enough to show how very much I love this book.
Maybe the following two things will.

1. This is the second best book that I’ve read in 2015.
2. This is the second best book that I have ever read in the thirty seven years that I’ve been reading.

I always have such a hard time writing reviews because I find it hard to be careful of what details I should mention and what I should not.

The Girl From The Train is based off of true stories told by German war orphans who had been sent to South Africa to be adopted in order to “strengthen the Aryan bloodlines”. Gretl – her name changes a few times throughout the book depending on where she is – is one resilient child who adapts quickly from the ravages of WWII to being rescued by a young man who takes her home to his family in Poland and then leaves her to fight in the Home Army and nearly dies; from being left in a German orphanage in the hopes of her being adopted by a South African family to being adopted and adapting to a comfortable lifestyle where clothes were numerous, shoes were no longer a luxury, and the instant love of a family who enveloped her and made her feel safe.

The author packs quite the punch as we’re treated to Gretl’s story over the span of fifteen years. It’s easy to tell that English is not her (the author, that is} native language, but it didn’t take away from the story. Even though I didn’t like parting from the book, I found myself looking up the meanings of German, Polish, and Afrikaans words and items that I’d never heard of {such as a Primus Stove}.

If there was something missing, it was only my inquisitive nature to learn more of the ghetto that Gretl talked about several times. There’s also the fact that so much of Gretl’s life was glossed over and seemed a bit too perfect once she was adopted by the Neethlings and she settled down into her new family and country. It wasn’t until the last 50 pages that she – and Jakob – really struggled with their relationship and the changes that took place.

Differing faiths is weaved throughout the book, but it’s more prominent in the first half, and only really an issue in the last fifty pages or so. There is minor cussing, kissing, drinking, and smoking that is mentioned, but for me it didn’t take away from the inspirational tone. Throughout time people drank wine – Jesus turned water into wine! – people kiss outside of marriage, light cussing isn’t always frowned upon {nothing more than bloody hell or one use of the word bastard}, and men smoked cigars.

Again, the author of this book is Afrikaans and it’s easy to tell that English is not her first language. I recommend this book for anyone over the age of sixteen; especially those with a love of history and an unexpected romance blossoming through one of the darkest times humanity has ever lived through.

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Thomas Nelson/Zondervan and the Fiction Guild for sending me an ARC of this beautiful book. All opinions expressed in this review are of my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kim gerbrandt
The story opens with 6 year old German-Jewish Gretl and her family on a train bound for Auschwitz, trying to find a way off the train. Outside, along the track, is 21 year old Polish resistance fighter Jakob planting bombs to derail an expected German supply train. Only too late does he realize that the train headed his way is actually full of innocent Jewish families. The bomb detonates, train explodes, the smoke clears to reveal the only two survivors from this train -- Gretl and her older sister. Jakob guiltily runs off, not seen by either of the girls. Hours later they are picked up by a local farmer when he sees how sick Gretl's sister is. Gretl's sister doesn't survive. In an strange twist of fate, the farmer's wife turns out to be an aquaintance of Jakob, contacting him to come get this orphaned girl she is unable to care for. Upon arrival, Jakob it is shocked to find it is Gretl, and perhaps largely to ease his guilty conscience, agrees to take Gretl to his family's farm.

Gretl ends up staying with them for a number of years until Jakob's mother decides it has become too expensive and too dangerous (as Gretl is looking more and more German during a very much anti-German time in Poland) to keep the child around. Stressing over the limited amount of alternatives, Jakob hears of a town in South Africa looking German war orphans to boost the population there. Feeling there's nothing better he can offer her, he gets on a train with Gretl to South Africa. Once there, he tells her they must cut off further communication with each other for her safety, that she must go on and have the best life possible from here on out. The story then divides between what happens to the two of them individually as the years pass. Will they ever have a chance to meet up again? You'll have to read to find out :-)

I struggled to get into this book at first, but that could possibly be due to reading it in October when my brain has been eating up all these paranormal and horror stories. It makes it tough to immediately flip over to standard historical fiction. But I was pretty curious about this one, learning that the author herself is a South African novelist -- 8 to her name -- yet this was her first book to ever be published in English. I also liked that the story goes to South Africa during WW2, as it's not a part of the history that is widely taught in school here in the States. I ended up liking this story a good bit, pulled in by a number of elements. Two of the main things I recall:

>> I really liked the way young Gretl kept finding strength in recalling the story Heidi by Johanna Spyri. Not only because I remember myself being enamored with that story when I was little, but the way it kept encouraging her to push through strange or painful experiences with this idea of "This is just like the story" or "Heidi did this, so I can too." I found Gretl's optimism incredibly warm and endearing. Also with Gretl, I found myself really feeling for her, how throughout her whole life she was forced to try to keep so many lies straight for the sake of staying alive! Just keeping all the names she uses throughout the story -- Gretl, Gretz, Gretchen, Grietjie -- was making my head spin!

>> I found Jakob's constant struggle with trying to be a good man but being forced into difficult positions pretty powerful. Particularly with his political stance. Many of Jakob's friends and neighbors believe that the only way for Poland can win against the German invasion is to join forces with Russia's Red Army. Though Jakob is a resistance fighter, he doesn't agree with joining Russia, he feels it's only potentially swapping one enemy with another. At least he maintains that belief until he gets to Warsaw and sees troops primarily made up of young teens... children, basically... to take on the German troops. After that, he has to reluctantly acknowledge that there might be some truth in the benefits of banding with Russia's army.

The couple downsides to this story for me: a) the pace was a little slow for my liking, and something about the writing, while definitely good, lacked that extra something that kept me glued to the pages and b) I personally felt the back and forth between two of the characters near the end dragged on a bit too long. I thought it was cute in the beginning but by the end I was bored and burnt out of hearing about it, lost interest in how things would turn out. I called the ending within a few chapters of the novel's start, so that part wasn't really a surprise anyway.

If you were a fan of The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, I would recommend trying this one on for size. I felt a number of commonalities between the relationships of Gretl / Jakob in The Girl From The Train and Liesel / Max from The Book Thief (at least in the first half of the book). The one similarity that especially stood out to me was when Jakob gets seriously injured and Gretl takes it upon herself to nurse him back to health, much like the way Liesl did for Max. Similar stories, though I personally enjoyed The Book Thief much more.

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is the first of Irma Joubert's novels to be translated to English, but I'm sure it won't be the last.

This is a powerful story, following the story of Gretl Schmidt (a German with a Jewish Grandmother) during World War II. Slipping between the rails of a cattle car bound for Auschwitz, she thought she was to wait for her sister, mother, and grandmother. As the events following that fateful day unfold she crosses paths with Jakob, a young Polish man who takes her to his home where he and his family cares for her.

This book follows her from Poland, to Germany, and finally to South Africa as she learns to carefully hide what she must in each situation. Her father was a fallen SS soldier, her grandmother was Jewish. She was baptized Protestant, but loved the Catholic church during her time in Poland. As a precocious young girl, she quickly learns how to adapt to each environment, but that longing for true identity follows her everywhere she goes.

This a powerful story set in the time of WWII. The readers get to see it from the perspective of a young girl in the ghetto, a Polish political dissident, and the South Africans who where taking in German war orphans. The author does a great job of weaving in historical facts throughout the book, and bringing the real social issues to light.

The characters are deep and seem so very real. One can't help but love Gretl, both as the young girl we first meet and the young woman she becomes. Her heart is deep, and always hopeful. Despite the many hardships, her story is one of hope and forgiveness. Her story will stay with you long after the book ends.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kelley bruce
When it comes to reading there is nothing I like more to read than a good historical fiction book. I love it when I find an author who has weaved a beautiful fiction story mixed together with true historical facts. Some authors seem to go the extra mile and bring a story that pulls at your heart strings and tears at your soul. The Girl From the Train by Irma Joubert is just such a story.

I new as soon as I seen the cover and read the back excerpt that this book would be good, and I was not disappointed. It is one of those books that you don't want to put down. The kind that when you do have to put it down you are thinking about it and rushing around just so you can sit down and read it again.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction! It is a great story of love, hope and faith. This book will be going on my list of favorites!

More about the book:

As World War II draws to a close, Jakob 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 form the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakob discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and the little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But Gretl can't stay with him forever. Jakob send her 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, Jakob and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they both survived and their believe that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

***This book was provided to me by in exchange for my honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
renee z
The Girl From the Train
By Irma Joubert

If I was asked to describe this book in just a few words I would use the following:

This is a story that will leave a lasting and profound impression on you. This is a story you need to read.

Gretl Schmidt is just 6 years old when war takes everything from her - everything but her dream. The dream that wakes her from her sleep. The dream that haunts her.

A young girl hated among her own people - a Protestant German Jew. Sent away with what remained of her family to Auschwitz, Gretl managed to escape into the unknown regions of Poland. Here she meets the man who will change her life forever.

Jakob Kowalski is fighting to free his people, his country, from the German invasion when a mistake is made - a mistake which he will have to live with. While dealing with his guilt he offers to aid a young girl who has escaped from the very people he is fighting. But Gretl's fair Germanic features and Protestant roots are a problem in a country that is both Catholic and Polish.

As the war concludes an opportunity is presented that may provide Gretl with both a proper home and a family who will love her. But to do this she must leave behind Jakob and all that she has known and learned over the last four years. She must be silent on her Polish experience, her Catholic ties, and her Jewish grandmother. She must be a pure Aryan and a Protestant if she is to find a family that will take her into their home and their hearts, if she is to be one of the few chosen to become a child of South Africa.

As Jakob tells her before they part, ...always remember you're Gretl... If you don't allow others to influence who you are, you'll have something no one can take away from you. It doesn't matter what other people are like, or even what they call you. You must continue to be Gretl. Gretchen....

The Girl from the Train covers approximately a 15 year period of time - the time needed to transform the young child Gretl into the young woman Grietjie. The time needed to reunite two people who were necessary to one another. This is a story of the triumph of the human spirit, a story of love - a love that spans the years, and a story of perseverance in the face of prejudice.

If you need a suggestion for a book club this is one you should read. There are many books that are chosen as a selection for a book club and they are awful - there is no hope, leaving the reader in a state of despair and depression - offering nothing to make the experience worthy of your time. This book is not one of those books - yes there is tragedy, there is loss but throughout there is hope and hope is a powerful draw.

I was provided an advance uncorrected copy of this book by the publisher through the Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
About the 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.

My Review:
Gretl Schmidt is six years old and is on the run from the Gespo. Being a German Jew she doesn’t really have any allies. The Polish despise Germans and the Germans despise Jews. So with her family having no where to turn to, do the fact they are on a train to Auschwitz, they decide to sneak Gretl and her sister Elza off.

Jakòb Kowalski fights along with other Polish men to rid the Germans from their country. Planting a bomb on the train tracks for a coming German Troop transport seemed like a reasonable idea. That is until he takes little Gretl in. With her mom and grandmother killed on the train he helped destroy and her sister dying from a fever, she is all alone with no one wanting to take in neither a German nor Jew. So Jakòb decides to keep the little girl by his side.

Three years later, Gretl looks more and more like a German everyday and Jakòb is worried for her safety. With no where else to turn, Jakòb must send dear little Gretl to an orphanage in South Africa. Where maybe just maybe a nice Protestant family will wish to adopt her.

The Girl From The Train is a wonderful book about love and endurance. I enjoyed how this book was full adventure and kept you sucked in. This author has become one of my favorites and I’ll be sure to keep my eyes out for more of her books.

**Disclosure** This book was sent to me free of charge for my honest review from Book Look.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Irma Joubert’s novel, The Girl from the Train, had been an international bestseller in South Africa and The Netherlands before arriving here in the United States. Translated for the first time into English, the novel is now being released by Thomas Nelson and HarperCollins Christian Publishing. In the midst of World War II, young Gretl Schmidt escapes from a train heading toward Auschwitz. Despite the help of a picture of her German SS soldier and her Lutheran baptismal certificate, Gretl’s Jewish grandmother was her only means of identity. Hiding the truth of her past becomes essential to her survival. On her perilous journey toward safety, she meets Jakob Kowalski, a young Polish man determined to free his country from the grips of other nations. On his family’s farm, Gretl finds a delicate form of shelter, but the war and her hidden identity each continue to touch her life in countless ways. The realities of communism encroach on Gretl’s life, forcing Jakob to send her to an orphanage in Germany with the hopes that she is relocated to the safety of a Christian family in South Africa. After years of ever-changing languages, names, and religious identity, Gretl’s life in Africa seems idyllic. However, she must finally determine for herself who she really is by coming to grips with her unique past.

Overall, The Girl from the Train could be summarized in one word: brilliant! After reading Christian historical fiction and scholarly monographs on related subjects for years, this novel is the first I would distinguish in the rare caliber of literature. Ms. Joubert accomplishes a rare feat in fully engaging her readers with a timeless story of perseverance and faith in the midst of exceptional trial. Additionally, she brings to life the incredible stories of Poland’s Home Army, Germany’s war orphans, and the racial and political persecution that perpetuated the challenges faced by the real-life individuals personified in Gretl’s character. Perhaps of most interest to Christian fiction readers, the novel reveals the fascinating lengths that religious identity played within the period, especially as Gretl is forced to change her affiliations as a result of family, politics, and war to survive. In the moment when Gretl’s South African adopted father denies the existence of the Holocaust, without realizing his own daughter’s heritage or wartime experiences, The Girl from the Train became one of the most compelling books of the year. Personally, I think The Girl from the Train has the potential to be this generation’s answer to Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One, capturing the human experience and personifying it within a character’s ability to overcome some of history’s greatest challenges.

Special thanks to Thomas Nelson and the Fiction Guild for the advanced copy of The Girl from the Train!

Brittany at
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Gretl has been forced off the train by her grandmother along with her sister, but as the train goes over the bridge it explodes. The train has been sabotaged by a group of Polish Resisters. Gretl is found by a man who takes her to a safe place where her sister dies, presumably because of tuberculosis. Because she cannot stay where she is, Jakob takes her to his home where she lives for four years. As Poland is taken over by the Russians, Jakob takes Gretl to the orphanage with the hope that she can be adopted by a family in South Africa. Even though she is too old for the program, she is adopted by what she terms the best family she could have ever had. Because of Jakob's political leanings, he has to leave Poland as well. He ends up in South Africa by way of England and meets up with Gretl again.

This is a satellite view of the book. Gretl makes several name changes depending on where she is, but her name basically remains the same-ish. She is an incredibly bright young lady who has an ear for languages and majors in four languages at school. She is hired to be a translator for the newspaper in Johannesburg.

This is my first book by Irma Joubert and I couldn't put it down--I read until I could not keep my eyes open any more. This reads more as a life story than as a novel. The events follow a logical progression and make so much sense for the reader. The settings add so much richness to the plot-lines and create incredible pictures for the imagination to understand the story. It is more than a romance between Gretl and Jakob; in fact, their romance takes less than one-quarter of the book.

One of the key components of the book is Gretl's nightmares--things she remembers subconsciously but not consciously. When the Primus stove blows up while she's fixing pancakes, Jakob comes and helps Gretl's memories come to fore. By talking about the events in Poland and Germany, she is able to find freedom from her nightmares, but her father learns that things he didn't want to believe were actually true.

Five Stars, two thumbs up, and a dream come true.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to read and review this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
daniel etherington
I began "The Girl From the Train" by Irma Joubert. I did not know it at the time, but this story and its characters would grab my heart and my mind, turning into my favorite book and a near-obsession in the duration of my reading of it. I could not get the characters out of my mind!

Gretl Schmit, when the book opens, is jumping off a train bound for Auswitz, full of Jews, including her family. She manages to escape, waiting by the tracks for her sister, who also is able to squeeze off the train car. Soon she hears a loud boom, and tucks down, hiding, assuming it is just another bomb. At just six years old, she is on the run.

Jakob Kowalski is a twenty-one year old Polish resistance movement worker against the Communists in WWII. When he sets a bomb on the tracks to stop a German train, he doesn't know another unscheduled train is coming by--one that will deposit a fierce, strong, determined six year old orphan into his life.

I absolutely loved this book. Gretl captured my heart and I could not get her out of my mind, She was so strong and so brave and so smart. This story has so much heart, love, and backbone to it and its characters. The plot kept me hanging, but Gretl kept me going. She was extraordinary (and reminded me to Liesel of "The Book Thief"). This book is one that will not stay on my shelf--I will be loaning it out to my friends and spreading the word of this spectacular story.

Thank you SO MUCH to Thomas Nelson and Zondervan's Fiction Guild for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own and were not required to be positive.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
angela williams
The Girl From the Train is a delightful journey that I simply did not want to end. It is a must read for anyone who likes historical fiction from the 1940s and 1950s

Gretl is a little German girl who escapes a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakob is a young Polish man who rescues her and takes her into his home. She lives with his family for a few years, but circumstances force her to leave. She ends up being taken in by a South African family. This story is about the growth and self-discovery both of these characters make through an interesting time in history for both Eastern Europe and South Africa.

Joubert writes with such elegance, and her characters are so real you feel as though you've known them forever. A former teacher, Joubert's research into these times and places is quite evident in the book. Jakob's love of Polish traditions and his involvement in Polish politics of the time are fascinating. Gretl's story is equally as captivating. She's a girl with multiple experiences which she must learn to reconcile - her German, Polish, and South African roots conflict with each other almost as much as her Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic backgrounds do. And through all of this is woven a very compelling and innocent love story.

In a word, this novel is breathtaking. It's one of my new favorites, which I plan on rereading many times. I highly recommend it to anyone who knows how to read. Seriously.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kelly george
This was a very fascinating read. The first part was totally enthralling... the story of the girl who is complicated and by life's circumstances, in a bad spot just by her birth and genealogy. She is so deep and her character formation was excellent in the novel, and I was riveted by her experiences. Jakob is a really nice character as well, I immediately liked the man. I was super happy with the book... was thinking it would be an excellent read for my Jr. High kids.

Then I hit the second part where the characters are older and the romance comes in. It was good, don't' get me wrong, but it definitely pushed the limits for a Christian novel. And it was pretty heavy throughout at that point. That, honestly, is the main thing I took off a star for. It just really ruined what would have been good, classic literature for the whole "semi-adult" household to being a typical romance novel. It was disappointing.

That being said, once I got over my disappointment that I could not hand this to my kids who could have learned a lot of really good life lessons from it, I enjoyed it more. It is DEEP, and it's not dark either. It made me smile, made me happy, made me frustrated and made me sad throughout parts of it. VERY nicely written.

The ending is not at all what I expected. The author totally changed it around and gave it a twist I did not expect. I wasn't sure how I felt about the change... but as soon as I got on board with it, the author put some angst in it so that I was mad at everyone for the very thing I wasn't sure about at first! Goes to show that the author is a good writer! LOL

This really was a beautiful story. It felt super real. I wonder if the author at all took a real story and made it into fiction, because it sure felt that way. She went outside the bounds of normal and made it something really special. I definitely would recommend this for MATURE audiences, preferably married since the romance is a bit too much.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
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.



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 is 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**
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Girl From the Train By Irma Joubert was a delight to read and I am not normally one who picks to read historical fiction. What lured me in was the fact that I am obsessed with reading anything which has to do with the Holocaust; both in fiction form and non. While this book doesn't really dive into the Holocaust itself; it is a tale about two people who connected because of the war. This story follows the life of little Gretl Schmidt from the age of six until the age of twenty-one.

The book is labeled as Christian Fiction, but is more of a coming-of-age story than it is a biblical work. I believe it helps that the author was a history teacher for 35-years because you can tell when reading that she pays very close attention to detail. The book is very well written and edited.

Despite reading the description prior to obtaining the book, I wasn't sure how this story was going to pan out for me. Because I wasn't really a big history buff and don't read a lot of historical fiction, I was worried I wouldn't finish the book. I was pleasantly surprised that this work of fiction kept me reading until the very end.

While I won't give away spoilers, let's just say the author disguised the climax of the story and the ending might just surprise you.

This book really made me stop and think about the world today. How things used to be, how things have changed and wondering how things will be in the future. It's a book that will make you appreciate the simple things in life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Wonderful book--such an interesting time period. Gretl/Gretz/Grietzie was a great character as she managed to survive the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust through grit and a sad understanding that sometimes you had to lie to survive. The toll of keeping secrets and living with lies manifested itself in nightmares that plagued her even long after she had been adopted into a happy life in South Africa. Although I didn't care too much for the romanticized ending, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her journey and her relationship with Jakob, the Polish man who helped her and knew her truths. Good book for history buffs with lots of information about Poland in the war and postwar years. Very well written.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is an interesting story about a little girl who is on a transport train to the Auschwitz prison in 1944 Germany. She escapes from the train along with her sister, but they don’t know where they are when they jump from the train. Gretl Schmidt is six years old. Her sister is fourteen, but very sick. An old man finds them and takes them to the home of a poor woman who can’t support her own four children. She contacts a member of the Polish Home Army, who has been fighting a resistance battle against the occupying German forces. Gretl learns she has ended up in Poland and this poor woman can’t afford to feed her. The Home Army sends Jakob Kowalski to pick her up. She ends up living with Jakob and his family for four years.
While with the family Gretl helps out on the farm and goes to mass. After four years, Jakob’s family can no longer afford to feed her either. Jakob and Gretl have formed a deep friendship, but he must send her away. He takes her to an orphanage that is relocating certain children to South Africa via adoption. Gretl can have no contact with Jakob. They part and each one’s heart breaks with the loss of parting.
While Gretl loves her adopted family and learns about being a Protestant, she continues to miss Jakob. The story continues with each one thinking about the other daily, but surviving and even thriving in new situations. They are reunited in South Africa after several years. Their joy at seeing one another again is wonderful, but other feelings begin to change their relationship.
I found this story to be intriguing and the idea of the story very creative. The chapters were a bit long, and I think shorter chapters would have made the story pace quicker for my taste. Gretl certainly suffered a lot for such a young girl and that really made me appreciate and thankful to God for my easy childhood in comparison. I also liked the part of the story where Gretl was so good with languages and telling stories. Grandpa John was such a lovable grandpa! I learned some too about the attitudes at the time toward other religions, races and countries.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
daniel platt
In November, when Irma Joubert’s book hits bookstores across the world and becomes Target Book Club’s pick of the month, there may be a little confusion with another book that has a very similar title. But let me inform you, the titles are the only similarities between these two books.

In fact, The Girl from the Train, which was first published in Afrikaans in 2013 before becoming a bestseller in the Netherlands, this book probably had its title first.

At age six, Gretl Schmidt is a determined and brave child. She squeezes between the bars of a train bound for Auschwitz and jumps out with her sister. Through a series of events, she is cared for by Jakob Kowalski, a Polish native who is fighting for the home army.

When Jakob’s family is no longer able to care for the girl a few years later, he takes her to an orphanage in Germany. On another train, he reads an article about South African citizens who are interested in adopting German children. Gretl’s new life in South Africa begins.

Readers will grow with Gretl as she is placed and displaced, as she struggles to find a home, a family, and an anchor. One child’s experiences of repeated loss will hit you in the gut and the heart. And poor Gretl seems to get hit with horrible blow after blow. She must keep her secrets or her new family won’t want her. The one person she has trusted with everything is no longer with her.

I am continuously amazed at the number of lives that were effected by World War II. Not only were the Jews persecuted by the Germans but there were also countries who were inundated by Russian troops. And children continued to be the innocent victims for years.

Gretl and Jakob’s stories are hard to read. Just when it looks like something good might happen to one of them, something comes along to throw them off their game. But through it all, their friendship remains.

****The Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amy margaroli
First thoughts: I always enjoy stories from the WWII era, as my grandparents fled from the Ukraine at that time. Books like this always move me, giving a small glimpse into what they went through. I liked the unique perspective from a war orphan who's sent to South Africa to be adopted.

Plot: Six year old German Gretl Schmidt was on a train with her family, bound for Auschwitz, but she's able to escape along with her sister. The two are lost in the countryside of Poland, until a young man, Jakob Kowalski and his family take them in. A few years later, the Kowalski's are no longer able to take care of Gretl, and Jacob must return her to her homeland. Torn, Jakob decides the best he can do for Gretl is leave her at an orphanage where they're looking for children to send to South Africa for adoption. All the while, Gretl is forced to hide her Jewish background and Jakob is joining the fight against the communists taking over his country.

Characters: The story is told through the perspectives of Gretl and Jakob. It follows them until Gretl's a young woman in college. I found Gretl to be a very bright character, as she seems to have no trouble adapting or understanding situations, even at a young age. She immediately earns my sympathy as she's separated from all her family. One aspect that I found a little confusing was Gretl's name changes. In Poland she's known as Gretz, though Jakob calls her Gretchen. Then when she moves to South Africa, she's called Grietjie. I understand that's part of the language differences, but as a reader, I found it disconnected me from the main character because I didn't know what to call her.

Recommendation: I'd highly recommend this story to those who enjoy historical fiction and the WWII time period. It was an emotionally moving coming of age tale that I very much enjoyed.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The Girl from the Train, by Irma Joubert reminds me of the Piano Guys version of One Directions' Story of My Life. If you've never seen the video, you should really do so. It turns what is an okay song into a beautiful classical music storytelling piece. While there are definite time jumps that sometimes are unexpected, we see the story of a girl. A girl whose whole world was taken from her due to the evil of WW2 and yet was given back to her in the end through her faith and connection with her family.

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

It is pure chance that links Gretl and Jakób together. But once they meet, a friendship and a bond is born that transcends circumstances. Taken first to live with Jakób's family, eventually Gretl must leave for a new home due to lack of resources. She gets a new chance at life by going over to South Africa as a German war refuge. Of course, to be considered, she has to pretend that she is not Jewish, and must hide her knowledge of Poland, Russia, and anything communist. For Gertl, she gets a new life, a new family that loves her, and a new name, Grietjie. But the one thing she misses most has been left behind in Europe.

This book is good historical fiction. The Girl on the Train is captivating in many ways, and as we see Grietjie's life unfold, the influence of Jakób in her life cannot be ignored and touches a part of me as the reader. The only negative I really had with this book were the jumps through time. I am giving The Girl from the Train 4/5 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and if you enjoy Historical Fiction from a Christian perspective, I believe you will too.

PS: The cover for Girl from the Train is Gorgeous!

I received this book for free through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
heather way
It is funny that the best book of 2015, is the last book that I completed this year. Irma Joubert’s novel, The Girl from The Train (not to be confused with any of the other girl/train books), is the only one of her books to be translated into English from her native Afrikaans. I am hoping that it will not be the last because this book has it all — a beautiful writing style, characters that capture the heart and descriptions that put the reader in the midst of the story. From war torn Poland to the wilds of the South African bushvelt, Joubert takes the reader on a tour through the emotional aftermath of trauma and the hope of new life. Along the way, the characters struggle to retain their identity in their quest to survive.

I didn’t make a lot of notes as I read The Girl from The Train. I was too immersed in the story to pull myself away. I also found myself bleary eyed from extensive reading periods. You will find it hard to put down. I often find that the books that affect me the most are the hardest to review. Words fail me. Let me just say that this book is a must read and perfect for book discussion groups. It also gets a Very Highly Recommended designation from me, something that only a handful of books merit.

So, did you get some book money for Christmas? Then make sure you include The Girl from The Train in your purchases.

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

Great for Book Clubs

(Thanks to Thomas Nelson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I have always been fascinated by stories from World War II. When I saw a review of The Girl From the Train, it immediately intrigued me and I was delighted when I was able to get a copy to review, myself. I was not disappointed, although I had hoped it was based on a true story, which it is not.
Irma Joubert has done a superb job of bringing her readers into Grietje’s life. From the beginning, when 6-year-old Gretl is pushed off a train by her mother and grandmother, to save her life, to the end, when Grietjie leads a happy life with her adoptive parents in South Africa, she is a very real person. She constantly has to hide one thing or another about her life from the people who care for her. Will she ever be able to be completely honest and open, and so gain freedom from the nightmares that plague her life? Along the way, she learns more and more about God’s love for her, and about love on a human level as well.
I did think the writing style was a bit stilted, at first, but by the time I was a fourth or halfway through the book, I didn’t notice that anymore. Whether the writing style improved, or I simply became so engrossed in the story that I didn’t notice, I don’t know, but when I read the author’s biography at the end and learned that the book was originally written in Afrikaans and then translated into English it made sense. I highly recommend The Girl From the Train for anyone who enjoys stories from World War II.
One thing I did not appreciate quite so much was the many mentions of kissing in the later chapters of the story. That was as far as physical love went, however.
I received this ebook free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. -
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
catherine happ
If not for World War II, six year old Gretl Schmidt and Jakob Kowalski, would probably not have met. The Girl From the Train, by Irma Joubert, opens in Poland in 1944. Jakob is a member of the Polish resistance and his mission is to plant a bomb on a bridge in order to destroy German train carrying troops. He completes his mission, but the train that reaches the bomb is not the one he expected. Instead, an unscheduled train carrying Jews to a concentration camp is blown up just after Gretl jumped off the train. Jakob finds Gretl in the woods and so their relationship begins. He takes her home to his Catholic family knowing he can not tell them she is Jewish. Neither had any idea of how long they would actually have to keep this secret. Gretl and Jakob eventually painfully part ways knowing it is not likely they will ever see each other again. However, their bond is forever.

The Girl From the Train is Gretl and Jakob's story. Life takes these two fascinating characters from Poland to South Africa. This is an intricately structured story about those who try to come to terms with loss and change. The characters are deep and complex. They both face life altering challenges and all the while they continue to keep secrets. Tragedy casts a shadow over Gretl's life and there comes a time when she has to deal with it. Will the outcome finally bring her peace?

This is a beautifully told story which is filled with hope, love and faith. Highly recommended.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ann kuntz
When you have one of those books that the minute you open it up and start reading it, you know that it is going to be a book you can't put down. The characters of this book have gone through such bad things during WWII. A young child loses first her father, because he was a soldier, then they go to their mother's mom who happens to be a Jewish woman in Poland and they get sent to the Ghetto, and everyday there is death and disease around them, then one day they are told they are going on a train, her grandmother and mom get her and sister out of the cattle car and then she loses both of them to a train blowing up on the way to the camp, her and her sister get found but she loses her also to disease, then comes Jacob who takes her from the farm she is at to his family home, being older and grown up he doesn't think anything of her and then he gets hurt and she helps take care of him. He realizes she is smarter than he thought for 8 years old, he ends up taking her to a orphanage in Germany so she can get adopted at 10, she proves she is worth adopting and goes with a group of children sent to South America to be adopted. She finds a wonderful family and grows up. Jacob has to flee Poland because he doesn't believe in the politics. He ends up in the same area as Gretl and he ends up helping her overcome her fears and they figure out that they are in love. He feels he is told and she doesn't care. 13 years is a big difference. But her adopted father problem is that they are Protestant and he is Catholic. But the big thing is she has to tell them her real mother was Jewish. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
As a member of the Polish Resistance, Jacob Kowalski will do anything to help stop the advance of the Nazis. But when an unscheduled train bound for Auschwitz crosses the tracks he’s just blown up, Jacob finds himself strapped with a new problem – young Gretl Schmidt escaped that train and is now on her own. The daughter of a deceased German SS officer and a Jewish mother, blond-haired, blue-eyed Gretl worms her way into Jacob’s heart. But with the unrest in Poland, Jacob realizes that he has to find a way to keep Gretl safe, which means sending her far away. Though she’s adopted by a family in South Africa, Gretl always remembers that the same moon she sees at night also shines on Poland and her unforgettable friend, Jacob Kowalski.

What a beautiful story! While it is a work of fiction, the care with which it is written makes it almost feel like a biography. I love how Joubert managed weaving the warp of Gretl’s story with the weft of Jacob’s story. Some of her descriptions are simply striking, and her writing is consistently poignant. Occasionally the writing seems a little bit choppy, but that is simply because it has been translated into English. At times the story is heart-wrenching (and, yes, tear-inspiring), but the lessons of love and the triumph of spirit more than balance the scales.

I would highly recommend this book, especially to those who enjoy historical and literary fiction.

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
john mundy
While I usually stay away from books concerning WWII, for some reason I was drawn to this one. I think more than anything I was curious. I'd read that this was the first Christian Fiction to be translated into English, and the first one to be picked as a Target Book Club pick. (I've never, ever read a book just because it was on a popular book list, like Target or Oprah, etc, other than this one, by the way.) It also has "International Bestseller" on the cover. My curiosity won, and pulled me into the pages.

It seems pretty typical with translated books that I've read, but many times I find the wording distracting. I don't know if this comes about during the translating process, and if it's just typical wording in the original language. It was so distracting within this book that I couldn't fully enjoy it. The sentences were short, and didn't flow naturally for me. I never fully connected with the characters, either.

Also, I've pretty much given up on reading romances these days. I don't typically enjoy them anymore, and I prefer to spend my reading time elsewhere. This one ended up being more romance than I was expecting.

Considering this is labeled Christian fiction, know that there is some mild language. Also, considering the time period, it's probably expected that there is some violence.

I've saw many fellow readers love this book, so if you think you'd enjoy an edgy Christian fiction(ish) book set in the WWII time period, with an unusual love story thrown in, give it a try!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for a honest review.

This book is a completely stunning, sweeping saga that details the darkest days humanity has known and the indomitable strength of the human spirit. Gretl is the epitome of a survivor. Going from the ghetto to the train that was supposed to take her and her family to the labor camps, to being rescued and taken in by Jakob's family, only to be taken to Germany to an orphanage to be selected for a program that would lead her to South Africa and finding the family she was always meant to be a part of.

The Girl From The Train is one of the books that will stay with you a long time after you finish the last page. There were parts of the story that I was very familiar with historically speaking, but as far as the history of South Africa and their customs and views on faith and people who have moved to the country were fascinating. It made for a complete story, I laughed, I cried and finally I cheered Gretl on for standing up for what she believes to be right and finally being honest with those she loves about her heritage and the horrors she has witnessed.

The story spans from Gretl's childhood all the way until she is in her twenties. It was very well written and paced to where the reader feels that they have been present for all these epic moments right along with her. The other characters are just as well written and so you often find yourself caught up in their stories as well. The final thoughts you are left with at the end of the story are differences in faith can be overcame by love if two people are destined to be together. I loved this book so much because of the strength of each of the main characters belief and how they all blend together. A truly moving story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The Girl from the Train was originally published in Afrikaans in South Africa, where it became a bestseller, before traveling to the Netherlands, where it also became a bestseller. Now it has it has been translated and many more readers will have the opportunity to enjoy this story.

This is the life story of Gretl Schmidt. When we first meet her she is six years old as she squeezes through the bars of a train car on its way to Auschwitz. Eventually we meet Jakób Kawalski, a member of the Polish resistance, whose troop mean to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.Though she is spared from the concentration camps, Gretl, an orphaned German Jew, finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discover her, guilt and fatherly compassion cause him to take her home.

Eventually it gets to the point where Jakób can no longer keep her and sends her 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.

That is only the gist of the story because I don’t want to give away any spoilers. Therefore, I encourage you to read the book for yourself. Irma Joubert’s research shines through and I enjoyed learning about the history during and after World War II. It is a captivating coming of age story and a search for identity and belonging. It is definitely worth reading.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I had recently read two other novels about the Holocaust. Both of those impacted me in a total different way. I can not find the words to give justice to this book. The story took place during the Holocaust and just after that time in history. It touched on, but did not dwell on the deeper issues of such a catastrophe. Instead Irma Joubert paints a beautiful love story about two people caught up in this deplorable situation. The young girl Gretz lived and survived through more than any one should ever have to face in their whole lifetime. I found it to be a very emotional book that I will remember for a long time. I am so glad it was recommended to me to read. I am quit sure I will read it again and again. I would recommend this book with all my heart.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
eric berntson
I love reading works from authors that are new to me and Irma Joubert is brand new to me. She has a writing style all her own. She is a storyteller, but one that is quick with scenes and at times didn't give me time enough in one area before she was leaving and heading to a new scene. I wanted to know more of the characters, see more detail, and feel more passion.

With that out of the way, this is a gem of a read. Really, once you begin reading, and it took me a while to truly get into the story, it is a story worth reading.

It was the cover that caught my attention. It's spectacular. The story-line grabbed me and I knew I had to review this new work.

I love history and works that share about this time in history are those very close to my heart. This novel spans over a fifteen year period. For me, that's a lot to take in and absorb. So much story to share and not enough pages to compose to totally bring me in and allow my heart to travel to another time and place and truly behold all the characters were feeling.

What I will do is go back and in time give this another try and I know I will walk away with something very different. Maybe that's it. This is one of those gems you just have to take your time with and with imagination and heart it then comes to life.

Remember, this is only my opinion. This is a beautiful story. For some reason I always felt a bit distracted. But you may pick up this lovely book and gain something totally different and walk away changed. I say give this author a chance to woe you into another time and place.

This book was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
meribeth poulsen
To me, this book, The Girl From the Train, by Irma Joubert sounded like such a good story. But, I felt that the actual way this book was written, did not connect with me at all. The story is sad, sweet, and full of love and family. I just couldn't connect. it's not that it was badly written, it was just written in a way that I had a hard time understanding. The story is inspirational, so I am going to try not to let my inability to connect hinder this review.

Gretl and her sister escape from a train that is on it's way to Auschwitz. World War II is ending, and Gretl and her family are trying to find any way to get out of the war torn country. The train that she was on is unfortunately hit with a bomb, and none of her other family members survived. She meets a man named Jakob who wants to help her, so she stays with him for a couple of years. This is where the "historical" part of the book ends, theres not much else to do with the Holocaust, the book is more about the relationship between Gretl and Jakob after that. They have this really interesting relationship, they eventually have to part ways, and this tale continues with their lives, and how they grow up separate but end up together in the end.

Like I said before, I had a hard time connecting with this book. It wasn't because the story wasn't good, it was great. I think it was a disconnect with me because of all the "slang" words and the way that they story was written. It just lost me. I tried to stay interested in the characters and what they were doing, but it kept slipping away from me. This book gets 3 out of 5 stars from me, it's a mix between historical fiction, romance, and a coming of age story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It was a very moving sad ,at times, it made me cry. But, so happy at other parts. I went through a lot of emotions through this book. It was written very well that I felt as if I were part of Gretz life. The life in South Africa was very interesting also at that period of time. I wasn't quite sure what to expect but politics weren't part of that story which was interesting as it was such a part of Poland. Just so happy it had a good ending!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
You know how some books just hit you with a bang while you are reading them and you can't seem to be able to put them down or let them go after you finish them?

How the book may be filled with sadness that just makes your heartstrings ache and you want to stop reading it but you can't because you just need to finish it? No matter how much your emotions are thrown into a turmoil!

Where you hope and pray that the protagonist finally get's a break and at the very least some light at the end of the tunnel if not a full fledged happy ending?

For me, The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert was exactly like what I just described! I can't think of a better way to start out a new year than reading a book that I am now adding to my "life time favorite books."

Gretl stole my heart as I walked along with her on her journey of life, family, war, loss, pain, love and so much more. My second favorite character was Jakob. Ms. Joubert did a breathtaking job of bringing Gretl's story to life with realistic characters that jump off the page with a plot that winds through your very heartstrings and won't let you go.

I will leave you with these final words to consider ... The Girl From The Train ... THIS BOOK IS SO WORTH THE READING!

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishing and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
wendy robertson
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. These opinions are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Train stations have always represented incredible sadness for young Gretl Schmidt; loss of family, loss of identity, and ultimately the loss of Jakob. Miraculously rescued following her daring escape from a train bound for Auschwitz, Gretl is both isolated and included within the confines of a rural Polish family. When it becomes apparent that Gretz Kowalski's only chance at freedom and education will come at the price of separation, the young man who risked his life to save her, bravely puts Gretz in a position to be adopted by a South African family, and a train carries her far away from the ravages of Communist Poland, and far away from him.

Grietjie Neethling, loves her new home and her new family, but never forgets the brave young Polish resistance soldier who saved her life. She carries his gift of a wooden cross across oceans, burying his image deep within her memories and remembering their years together with a fierce fondness. As Greitjie matures into a beautiful, educated young woman, there is still much about her past that has remained hidden, only reappearing amidst fiery nightmares. Imagine her surprise when the one person who knows her best and loves her unconditionally invades her life a second time, but will she be forced to choose between the past and the present?

"The Girl From the Train" is a brilliant literary ride from the unthinkable, to the unimaginable, through the insurmountable, to the unfathomable; arriving at a nearly unbelievable destination.

I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lotte hansen
I truly enjoyed this book. It is not your typical WWII story as I thought it might be. From the description, I expected something similar to The Book Thief, which I enjoyed immensely. What I discovered was something more poignant, beautiful, and enthralling. I was swept away by the story of Gretl and Jakob. Spanning Poland, Germany, and South Africa over the course of fifteen years, this book paints a beautiful picture of what life was like during, and after the war in these countries. It tells the plight of children orphaned by the war, and how race and religion played a role in their care and future. It tells of the love of family, the tragedy of war and prejudice, and the hope for the future.

Beautifully written and translated, I wish more translations were done this well. I wish I could read Afrikaners so that I could read the story as it was originally written, but if the English translation is only half as good as the original, Irma Joubert is someone I would definitely read again. I was amazed at the flow of the story, and that every word made sense. Often in translations, something is lost in the imagery or flow of the story, but absolutely nothing was here. If I didn't know beforehand it was translated, I never would have otherwise. Kudos to Else Silke for her amazing work!

I'd recommend this book to anyone. While a few scenes are a little intense, the story is one that needs to be told, and I honestly can't wait to read it again.

*I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)^
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jiwa rasa
Irma Joubert’s upcoming The Girl from the Train was actually published nearly a decade ago but this November will be the first time an English translation of the novel has been published. I’m not sure why it took so long for and English edition to make it to bookstores but Elsa Silke’s translation is superb and well worth the wait. I hope it will be talked about as much as The Girl on the Train and not simply in the context of their both having similar names (though if people read The Girl from the Train in the confusion, I don’t think it would be a bad thing).

Gretl Schmidt has her doubts about her mother and grandmother’s insistence that she jump from the train when it nears the hill but Gretl does as she’s told. Jacób Kowalski acts on the intelligence Poland’s Home Army receives and sets charges that will destroy a bridge when a train carrying German soldiers goes to cross it. But there’s an unexpected train coming from the other direction – a train carrying thousands of Jews headed toward Auschwitz. Gretl hears the explosion and believes it’s from planes dropping bombs. A few days later, Jacób is called to a house in the woods where a woman gives him custody of foundling Gretl. Jacób and Gretl’s lives are intertwined from then on; through the war and their later separation, while Jacób watches his beloved country fall under the growing influence of Soviet Russia and while Gretl crosses continents to find a new family in South Africa, their thoughts frequently turn to one another.

For the complete review, please visit my blog:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Have you ever had one of those books that you notice, and want to read, but decide not to. And then something happens and you read it. And you enjoy it. The Girl from the Train was one of those books for me.

I saw it floating around. I was interested in it. Wanted to read it, but I felt as though my heart has been broken enough with novels centered around WWII. Then it showed up in my mailbox. What I found in this book though, while it still possessed elements of tragedy and despair, was both hope and healing.

The Girl from the Train is a book that has a story that just lingers. There is something about the childish understanding of the main character, Gretl, in the beginning that just grips you. She's surrounded by the effects of Nazi Germany and the upheaval communism was causing in Europe. Gretl is affected by so much, but yet, the girl seems to have a spark of hope that can't be extinguished.

Then, in contrast to her childhood, she is destined for South Africa, where so many opportunities are presented to her. It is here, that hope and healing find their way into the book and really wrap themselves around the reader.

I found The Girl from the Train to be a fascinating book. It was thought-provoking as it wrestled with questions of identity and our own personal histories. I highly recommend it.

**I received a copy of this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.**
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amanda edens
You know, this has to be one of the most unique coming of age novels I have ever read. And probably one of the most hardest. Not because of any fault of its own, but because it deals with real and raw emotions, emotions you can really feel throughout the pages. Dealing with the hardships that took place in a world torn by war and heartbreak, and a love strong and lasting, The Girl From The Train opens up with a journey that exceeds moving. It is utterly unforgettable.

Besides being happy at the chance to read from a new author, I was also intrigued over the fact that The Girl From The Train is a international best-seller, and that the setting of the story takes place in more than one country. And as a language lover, that was something I just couldn't pass up!

It did take some time for me to get comfortable with the writing style (at some points, the flow of the story seemed choppy), but once I got settled in, I was glad I didn't stop reading. I opened this novel with great curiosity, mainly because of its synopses, and closed it with feelings that bordered on teary. There were so many things about this book - the characters, the settings of the story, the era, - that pulled at my heartstrings.

As for the romance of this story? Wow. For some reason, I did not catch the beginning signs of where it was headed, so I was a little surprised at the outcome.

But in a good kind of way. ;)

*Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for providing a free copy for my honest review. All thoughts expressed are my own.*
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
isaac bridges
“The Girl from the Train” by Irma Joubert is one of those books that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading the last page. The story begins in April, 1944 in Poland. The Resistance had planned to blow up a troop train. But it was an unscheduled train bound for Auschwitz, taking Jewish Poles to the concentration camp that triggered the bomb first. Gretl is the only survivor of that train. Jacob Kowalski, a member of the resistance, finds Gretl, a six-year-old little girl, hiding along the roadside and feels compelled to take care of her. She just wants to go to an uncle in Switzerland. That, of course, is not possible since the Germans occupy most of Europe and travelling is exceedingly dangerous. For four years, Jacob tried to take care of Gretl. He found a group in Germany that was helping orphaned German children immigrate to South Africa to be adopted by Afrikaner families. Because rules were so strict, Gretl had to keep secret that she was Polish and Jewish. What follows is a wonderful story about love and redemption. This is the first book of Irma Joubert’s that has been translated from Afrikaans to English. I hope it won’t be the last. I enjoyed this book very much and recommend it highly.

I received a print copy of this book from in return for my honest review. You can find this review on my blog at Other reviews can be found at
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Is the title of this blog overdramatic? Probably. My students are learning to read passages and make titles from them to hook readers. Do I have you hooked?

A sweeping international love story that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over the inhumanities of war and prejudice.

Six-year-old Gretl and her sister jump from a train bound for Auschwitz, her mother and grandmother unable to squeeze between the bars covering the windows. The daughter of a German soldier, Gretl understands very little about how her grandmother's Jewishness brought her first to the ghetto, then to the train, and now, to the Polish countryside where she wanders, searching for food and water for her dying sister.

Soon, Gretl finds refuge with Jakob, a Polish freedom fighter, and his family, where she is sheltered until the end of the war. Gretl is then sent away to a new life, a new name, and a new faith in Apartheid-era South Africa. As she comes of age in this strange place, she confronts its prejudices as she hides the truth of her past from her new family.

When Jakob makes his way to South Africa many years later, Gretl and Jakob are reunited in a love story that transcends time and distance and survives the ravages of hatred and war.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
julie jaffe
I was thrilled with this book because oddly enough it was chock full of topics, people and places I have an interest in. I read a lot about World War II, the holocaust, Jews, adoption, South Africa, and faith- things in this book as well as many other topics. I love to read but I'm choosy and if a book doesn't grab me I put it down. This novel definitely grabbed my attention.

This book was quite a journey. I had trouble putting it down and being productive in anything but reading for two days. That's not a bad thing sometimes.

The Girl From The Train was written by Irma Joubert in the language she speaks: Afrikkans, and then translated. It was well-written and well translated. Mrs. Joubert is an international bestselling author and it's well deserved if this book is an indication of her overall writing style.

The characters were developed nicely and the settings were as well until the story wound it's way to South Africa. I felt more details could have taken me there more easily in my mind's eye. However the people of South Africa I found easy to imagine and even love. The tale of trauma and poverty to love and healing is really lovely and I will probably even read it again some time. It's "one of those kind". Some books I can't part with because I so related with the characters of I immersed in the story, or some other reason and I know I'd enjoy revisiting it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
marwa ayad
Thomas Nelson - Fiction and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of The Girl from the Train, in exchange for an honest review.

Much has been written about the countries involved in World War II, but there are very few books in the historical fiction realm that cover the impact the war had on the citizens of those affected areas. The Girl from the Train follows Gretl, who escaped from a train just moments before it was mistakenly blown up by Jakób. By some twist of fate, the two cross paths when the family that took Gretl in could not keep her. Jakób and Gretl form a bond which, due to circumstances such as food shortages and lack of space, lead her down a different path and away from her protector.

The Girl from the Train spans several years and many locations, yet it is a cohesive story with a well paced plot. This wonderfully imagined story is rich in history, while the realistic characters and setting are so steeped in realism that one forgets this is a work of fiction. My level of anxiety was heightened throughout my reading of this book, as I kept expecting the worst to happen. The Girl from a Train is a wonderful story and one that I will not quickly forget.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I really enjoyed this book. I am absolutely love WWII era novels and this one was very good. This book starts out right in the middle of WWII, with Gretl Schmidt jumping from a train bound for Auschwitz. Through a chain of events she meets Jakob and the story begins to unfold.

This story is a story of friendship and love.

The book was translated into English from Afrikaans so I think at times it made the book seem a little bit simple. The chapters are very long, so it did take me a little while to read it.

I enjoyed the characters very much. Gretl reminded me of my daughters. Jakob was a kind and good man and took care of Gretl.

While the book was long and somewhat drawn out it really was a great story. My only real issue with the book was that there was a little bit of language scattered throughout. Taking into account that this was translated from another language and words don't always mean the same thing or are considered bad, it still is a bit of a turn off for me. Especially since this is supposed to be a Christian novel.

Overall a great book and a fascinating story.

I was blessed with a copy of this book by The Fiction Guild for review. A positive review was not required.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I loved this book, so much that I am writing a review (I never do!) I read a lot and love historical fiction. I am constantly looking for book recommendations on book lists, goodreads, etc. But I stumbled on this book accidentally on my library app. I didn't expect too much, it had never showed up on any historical fiction "must read" lists, so I was stunned when it turned out to be a total gem! I have read so many books on WWII, I rarely learn anything new anymore, but this book truly took a new angle. I knew so little about the Polish experience after the war or about resettlement of German orphans in South Africa. It was a lovely read! At times the language was simplistic, but it didn't bother me. The story kept me attention throughout (and I suspect this was due to the translation). Two great characters kept me reading late into the night.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction and has already read many of the acclaimed books. I really think it is a hidden gem.

I would love to read more of Irma Joubert. I wish more of her works were translated to English.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Wow, oh wow, oh wow! I just finished this book and I loved it! It was a beautiful and very thoughtful story of love, loss, heartache, fear, survival, hope, acceptance, and family. The characters were all beautifully written. I was drawn in from the very start and read it from start to finish in the same day.

The main characters are 6-year old Gretl, a part-Jewish girl, who is on a train headed for Auschwitz in 1944, with her mother, Mutti, her grandmother, Oma, and her older sister, Elza. The girls barely manage to escape from the train, are found and taken in briefly by a very poor Polish family, where the sister becomes very ill and dies, and immediately thereafter, little Gretl, unwanted by the family because of their poverty and her Jewish ancestry, is sent off with Jakob, a 20-year old Catholic Polish boy who is a member of the Polish Resistance. The story takes off from there with many twists and turns. This one had me in tears in a few places.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jesse casman
I absolutely loved Irma Joubert’s The Girl from the Train. With fascinating detail and authentic characters, it tells a historical and heartfelt coming-of-age story. The story spans both time and geography, originating in World-War-II-era Europe and traveling with Gretl and Jakob through Apartheid-era South Africa. Two strong, resilient characters, Gretl and Jakob, bear many burdens imposed by their historical contexts and deal with tragedy, loss and challenges to their identities, which bonds the two in an enduring relationship. Emotional and beautiful, the journey of The Girl from the Train offers an addicting read, and fans of historical fiction will not want to miss it. I highly recommend it.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers, I received a copy of The Girl from the Train and the opportunity to honestly review it. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own. (I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
chris caccamo
I find myself having a hard time coming up with the words to describe my feelings while reading this book. It truly was thought-provoking, and while I felt a deep sadness, I also had hope with every page I turned.

As you read this story you follow Gretl along on her journey, escaping the train headed to Auschwitz as a very young girl, and ending in Africa as a young adult.

Her story is sad, and she is a very strong, intelligent girl, she learns early to do what it takes to survive. There are people who enter the story and only stay for a short while but her one steady companion is Jacob, and he too has to let her go.

You will read a bit about the Nazi's, the fight in Poland against Communism, and Apartheid. There are some instances that are highly predictable and a few surprises as well.

I did find that parts of the story would become rather slow and drawn out, but yet I found the overall story to be quite interesting as well as entertaining.

I am not a history buff, so I probably looked at this book in a different way than those who are reading it in the perspective, but I would definitely recommend the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
marcus conge
The Girl from the Train is a slow but intriguing story that spans 15 years and two continents during tumultuous times. It begins near the end of World War II. Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt has been pushed off a train heading for Auschwitz just in the nick of time. Her father, whom she doesn’t remember, was a German soldier. But her mother, also dead, was a Jew.

Gretl finds herself in the care of Jakob Kowalski, a Polish factory worker and political dissident. But Jakob’s people have little patience for Germans or Jews. As communism begins to consume his country, plunging it into conflict and poverty, Jakob finds a way for Gretl to escape. Keeping her Jewish heritage and Catholic schooling in Poland a secret, he sends her with a group of German orphans to find a new home in South Africa.

Through Gretl’s eyes, readers gain a new understanding of political, religious, and racial issues of the decade and a half following World War II in Europe and South Africa. They also get to enjoy the story of a young girl discovering who she is in the midst of it all. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate this book.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Impacting! Irma Joubert begins the story with Gretl, a six year old girl who escapes a train headed for Auschwitz. She is a bright little girl and knows she must be careful to hide her heritage as her roots are both Jewish and German. Her bravery and resilence only grows as her story unfolds. She finds a friend in Jakob, a Polish freedom fighter; he himself is only twenty-one and now is suddenly responsible for Gretl. Jakob is a passionate man, who does what he believes is right no matter the costs. The story does not end with the war. We follow both of these characters for the next fifteen years and the impact the war has had on them both.
Joubert does a brilliant job of incorporating historical events into the book without it overwhelming the reader. She also selected events that many readers may not be awarded occurred. It is a true reminder that just because the war ended things did not go back to normal.
It is an amazing read. You can’t help but to fall in love with the characters. It is a reminder that our perception and outlook are key to how we interpret an event. It goes into some of the posttraumatic stress that survivors of the war did have to face. It is not an easy story to read nor should it be. The story will tug on your heart strings and it is well worth the read!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Originally published in South Africa, this is a compelling story set in the World War II era. Some early portions of the book were a bit difficult to follow as I had a hard time identifying some of the characters. Heart-wrenching moments and dangerous scenes escalated the tension in this story, and my heart ached for all that Gretl, and others like her, endured. Many twists and turns occur in both Gretl and Jakób's lives before they meet again many years later. While their relationship was understandably complex and they deeply cared about each other, it was a bit of a stretch for me to make the leap with the differences in their ages and the "rescuer/rescued" relationship to one of romance. A beautiful story receiving rave reviews, The Girl From the Train is a great novel for book club discussions.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Thomas Nelson's Fiction Guild. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mindy binder
"The Girl From the Train" is one of the best books I've read in recent months. Often when novels are translated from another language, it loses its beauty but this is not true for this novel. I was engrossed by the telling of the resilient nature of both the lead characters: Grietz, a half-Jewish six-year old who manages to escape a train bound for Auschwitz and Jakob, a young Polish man who becomes her reluctant guardian. The blossoming of their relationship takes the reader into a heart-wrenching journey as Jakob decides what is best for Grietz and his own battle against the Communist regime that has encroached into Poland at the end of the second World War. But despite their difficulties, their bond could not be broken by time and distance. It's a touching story of the human capacity for compassion, overcoming difficulty, and hope. However, this story does not gloss over racial and religious bigotry which might be startling for some. It is a story unlike any other story I have read about the World War's victims.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
susan b
This book is extremely well-written. The characters are complex and the storyline is astonishingly well thought-out.

My favorite part of the book was how the author has managed to capture so many facets of World War II all within the one main character, Gretl/Gretz/Grietjie.

As a young child, she is a Jewish girl, banished from a Warsaw ghetto and now bound for Auschwitz. When Gretl is rescued, she's a war orphan, lost in a country that speaks a language she barely understands. Raised during the war in Poland, Gretl becomes a Polish Catholic schoolgirl, whip smart but already hiding war secrets. Soon after the war, she assumes yet another identity as the orphan of a fallen SS soldier. From there, Gretl becomes Grietjie, a Protestant South African citizen of a white family in the midst of apartheid. The Girl From the Train examines all sides of Gretl and her identity. In the end, it is Gretl who decides exactly who she actually is and will become.

Disclosure: I was given this book complimentary in exchange for an honest review, however I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
laura rotaru
Irma Joubert's novel, The Girl From the Train, covers an aspect of World War Two that I was not aware of, the placement of Aryan orphans into South African families. Gretl Schmidt, the six year old,orphaned daughter of a Nazi soldier and a German- Jewish mother escapes a train bound for Auschwitz. She is rescued by 21 year old Polish rebel Jakob Kowalski. He manages to protect her through the war years.
This novel can best be summed up by the Bible verse 'For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' Jeremiah 29:11. It is a novel of hope and survival. I have not read any books about South Africa before, but found the word pictures painted by Joubert to be fascinating. The characters are complex, with real life flaws. I would recommend this book to any fan of Historical fiction.
I was given this book by The Fiction Guild for review purposes. I was not required to post a favorable review. These are my true thoughts on the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is such an admirable story. It's also a beautiful love story that follows the journeys of a six year old girl named Gretl and a young man named Jakob. The story takes place during World War II. Gretl is a little girl struggling with Jewish and German descent. Her father works for Hitler and is killed. Gretl's grandmother, Oma keeps the family functioning and on the move. However, Gretl's mother is an emotional bundle of nerves and does not provide much of anything. The family plans to live at Oma's house at the edge of a forest. Unbeknownst to Gretl, they are boarded on a train for a concentration camp. At just the right moment, Oma makes Gretl jump from the train and tells her to hide until Gretl's sister Elza comes for her. She also tells her, "Darkness is your friend. Get as far away from the railroad as possible while it's still dark. And hide during the day."

While Gretl is hiding, Jakob Kowalski from Poland is nearby working feverishly to place bombs on the bridge to blow up a German troop train. Unfortunately, an unscheduled train arrives and the bombs kill the people on the train including Gretl's family.

Elza and Gretl find each other. Elza is very sick. Gretl find a man who takes them to his home and his wife begrudgingly cares for them. Jakob visits the farm the girls are staying at and the wife convinces Jakob to take Gretl to his home. A genuine friendship is born between the Jakob and Gretl.

Poor Gretl is hurled from religion to religion. As time go by Gretl is eventually placed in an orphanage. Jakob makes sure she is placed in a program for German children to be adopted by South African people. Gretl moves there and is raised by a loving family where she flourishes. Many events happen in their lives during and after their separation. Thankfully, Jakob and Gretl's paths cross again but this time it's Jakob's heritage that has him on the run.

I really loved this book! It can be daunting to keep up with all the places but it makes you appreciate the freedom they search for. I highly recommend this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jen n
A wonderful story about a girl named Gretl Schmidt. It follows her incredible journey through life starting at the age of 6 when she escapes from a train bound for Auschwitz, all the way to her adulthood in South Africa. We see her struggles, nightmares, and fears. We truly see life as it was for little Gretl Schmidt, all the things she went through that make her who she is.

This was a wonderful story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I loved how Joubert brings the story to life through the eyes of a child. You learn about World War II and the Holocaust, but thinking about it from a child’s perspective really brings a different viewpoint to it. The characters were very well-developed. Even though the story follows Gretl through her childhood into adulthood, it captures your attention and it’s a hard book to put down. I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy historical fiction with a splash of romance.

**I received this advanced copy of the book for review through the Fiction Guild by Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert tells the story of Gretl: how she escapes from a train carrying a load of German Jews to Auschwitz during World War II, then stays with a Polish family for a few years before ending up in South Africa, adopted by a loving family. The author does a great job describing the different cultures Gretl adapts to, especially the one in South Africa which is the one with which I am the most unfamiliar. I especially enjoyed watching Gretl make the journey from watching others' faith to making Christianity her own.

I absolutely loved this book! From the very first page, I was enthralled, and I couldn't read it fast enough. The writing style of this author is wonderful, and I wish more of her books were translated into English. The pictures that she paints and how she describes the characters' feelings are extraordinary, and I can't recommend this book more highly. As an added benefit, it is clean!

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
karen germain
Before I started Irma Joubert's "The Girl from the Train," I wanted to love it. Yet as I started reading it, I had a sinking feeling that my expectations were too high. The premise is so interesting. A young German girl with a Jewish connection is bound for Auschwitz when the train she is on encounters a bomb meant by the Polish resistance for another kind of shipment. The tragedy saves Gretl, the lone survivor, from the concentration camp. Jakob Kowalski finds the young girl and gives her shelter in the most tenuous of situations.

The story spans many years as Gretl goes from a six year old to a young woman. It is a multi-layered plot that is historical, romance, political intrigue and religious. Author Joubert doesn't skimp on the history and the tension of that period. My main issue is that the writing is somewhat plodding so I never got into an easy reading rhythm with it. I do feel like it is a more-than-okay read but not quite at "I like it" level.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
b kenerly
If you want a really good romance story steeped in war, then this will be the best one you have read in awhile!

It has the drama and heartbreak from a young girl's perspective and also the promise that things will get better. She is rescued by a kind young man named Jakob and taken to a new land where she can start over with a family that grows to love her just as much as she loves them. But, all the while, she wonders if she will ever see this man again that probably saved her from the concentration camps back in Germany.

One day in her future, her dreams and wondering will come to be true and from that point on, her story is one of joy and love that otherwise might not have happened at all if she hadn't been in the right place at the right time for a good and kind young man to come along and get her to safety.

Isn't that proof enough sometimes that God does work in mysterious ways sometimes and there are angels among us that are actually alive and well.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
robert matheson
This book introduced me to a part of the world that I knew very little about—South Africa. I would not have been disappointed if it had included even more about the country. But I learned things from this book while enjoying the story. It is hard for me to imagine that someone could have the difficult life that Gretz had and she was still quite young at the end of the book.
This was a well written book that I thought was about the aftermath of the second war but it was so much more. It was a history lesson as well as a love story. And there were some very hard questions that were handled very well. Sometimes a Christian fiction book fails to tackle the tough subjects but this one. And surprisingly, some of the questions I had were answered. The book demonstrated how failure to communicate can lead to other problems, also.
It is a book that I am likely to purchase for my library and recommend to my Christian reader friends.
I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
billie rain
This international bestseller has now been translated into English! This tale of World War II is a life and death tale about a young Jewish girl who escapes from a train bound for Auschwitz and encounters Jakob, a fighter for the Polish resistance who is determined to reunite her with her family.

The story is steeped in historical fact as the two protagonists struggle to overcome the brutalities of war. There is an underlying Christian theme throughout that lends a tone of love and faith throughout. This is a lovely tale of inspiration and enduring strength with many fascinating layers. One cannot help but fall in love with Jakob and Gretl and their viewpoint over the war and resistance. Beautifuly written, easy to read, and poignant throughout, this is definitely one book to savor! Delightful in all its aspects.

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The Girl From The Train has become an international bestseller. I have always enjoyed reading about this time period. This is Gretl Schmidt's story. We meet her at age 6 when she's urged off the train taking prisoners to Auschwitz by her grandmother. She is taken in by Jakob Kowalski, a Polish factory worker and political dissident. Gretl's grandmother is Jewish, but she has been baptized a Lutheran, but she's viewed as Jewish, thus she is on the transport to a concentration camp.

Gretl stays with Jakob's family for a few years until there is no more room, then she elsewhere, eventually landing in South Africa, where she is adopted.

This is a story rich in descriptions; a story of a desire to belong, a story of a search for identity, told through an historical context. The ending is wonderful. A coming of age novel that is sure to captivate readers.

*I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Girl from the Train is a wonderful story of loss, life, and love.

We meet Gretl, a six year old on a train bound for Auschwitz, and Jakób, a young Polish man planting a bomb to destroy a train bridge.

At first, I was unsure of how much I'd like this book, given the political situations the book walks us through, but I felt enough information was given to give an accurate portrayal of the times, while not getting bogged down in the details and stalling the storylines.

I love how positive this story is, despite the rough, and at times, horrible, things both Gretl and Jakób faced in life. I expected the story to be very dark and gloomy, but instead, found a refreshing story that focused on caring for one another, coping with incredibly difficult circumstances, faith, healing, and belonging.

A beautiful story I highly recommend.

I received an ARC through the Fiction Guild for an honest review of this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ilene miles
Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakób Kowalski, member of the Polish Resistance, is planting a bomb on the tracks. Gretl is the only survivor. The orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, he takes her home. She can’t stay with him forever; he sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families. Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. Their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from The Fiction Guild/Thomas Nelson, in exchange for an honest review.

It took me a long time to get in the mood to read this book. I started it a couple of times, and put it down. When I finally read it, I flew through it, it was that good. Lots of unexpected twists and turns. As a World War II novel, it dealt with unexpected happenings and unexpected kindnesses from strangers.

Someone commented that it was a love story. It is that but so much more. Grandmother loved Gretl enough to save her from Auschwitz, Jakob loved her enough to give her up to an unknown future. Her Afrikaans family loved her enough to take a chance on a child from a war-torn country with an unknown background. Through it all Gretl remained a strong, resilient individual.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
hallie randel
Set during and after World War II, Gretl Schmidt, six years old, is the daughter of a German soldier with a Jewish grandmother. This Jewish relation drives her and family, firstly, to the ghetto, then aboard a train headed to Auschwitz, with her mother, grandmother, and sister. Gretl and her sister are pushed between the bars by her mother and grandmother to escape certain death.

At the same time, Jakób Kowalski, a Polish resistance fighter (against both the German and the Russian forces), is placing a bomb on the tracks to blow up a scheduled German troop transport. But an unscheduled train, headed for Auschwitz, comes through first, and is blown up by the bomb. All on board are killed. Gretl and her sister have escaped.

Gretl is taken into Jakób’s family’s crowded home. Jakób is a young man at this time. For three years, he and Gretl form a bond. Many secrets must be hidden from Jakób’s Catholic family. Gretl cannot stay with him though. Jakób places Gretl in a German orphanage where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families in South Africa. Once again, Gretl’s secrets must be kept, this time all alone—Jewish roots, Catholic education in Poland, and communist Poland.

Separated by years, continents, religion, language, even politics, it seems unlikely that Jakób and Gretl will ever see each other again. Yet, the human spirit and the human bond can overcome many hard circumstances.


Irma Joubert: International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. She’s the author of eight novels and is often on the bestseller lists in The Netherlands as well as her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels. She can be found on Facebook @ irmajoubertpage

My Honest Opinion

I loved so much of this story–the roots into just one segment of World War II, the hardships of the Jewish people, and the strength of the human spirit as they fight to survive alone, fighting to suppress enemies which dare to overtake them, and fighting to survive together. The story is filled with the beauty of relationships between young, old, and all ages in between. Families share the willingness to love beyond the circumstances, through trial and tribulation, through war and famine, through fear and secrecy. There are moments of sadness, survival, strength, and of pure joy, and unequivocal love.

Biblical truths weave their way clearly and profoundly throughout the book. I was glad and thankful to find each nugget as I read “The Girl From the Train.”

I love historical fiction. This book had a piece of history which I was unfamiliar with–the emigration of German war orphans to South Africa…Pretoria to be exact. It was a small group of 83 which went there in 1948. What this book lacked for me was more depth into the history of this event. Plus I would have liked a bit more history of the times in South Africa: What exactly was the “Catholic Threat” to the people in South Africa? Were the South African British just as closed to the Jewish, Catholics, and Polish as the Dutch/Afrikaaners? I would have liked more historical depth so that I did not have to look it up on the internet to find those extra details which I enjoy in a strong historical novel.

You can find more reviews @ Girl on the Train Reviews @ BookLook Bloggers

and the book listed @ Thomas Nelson

Thank you to Thomas Nelson, a registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., for this complimentary e-copy of “The Girl From The Train” by Irma Joubert through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a favorable review, but only to read this book in its entirety in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is one of those books you know it will be really deep with just reading the synopsis.

World War II is, like all wars, a difficult issue because there are always several versions of the story. In this case, the story transcends cultures because Gretl’s German, Jewish and Polish influences, therefore, contains historical data that may not all know.

I admit that the romance was a sort of weird for me, because of the age difference between the protagonists, but it was completely understandable after seeing how their stories were linked.

There is much drama in this book but it's still very easy to read because the chapters are short and captivating. Even after finishing reading, I still can’t believe it's fiction because the narrative makes it feel real.

-I recieved a book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review, which I did-
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I read quite a bit and I've been discouraged by how many books these days have shallow writing and poor editing. Not this book! Reading it was a delight. The author clearly took time over word choices and phrasing, making it a genuine pleasure to read. The story is not shallow or simplistic, either. I was almost reluctant to try this book because I thought it might be one of many WWII-era novels that tell the same simple story over and over. In reading this novel, I felt as though I was reading about real people, with real strengths and real flaws.

I also learned about German orphans being sent to South Africa after the war and about life in that country at that time. I've read so many WWII-era novels over the years that I'd begun to believe there was nothing more for me to learn about that time in history through them. This book proved me wrong!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This was a delightful book, and even with the translation from its original language, it was beautifully written. As a book primarily about a child, it didn't feel like a children's book, while still handling the childhood aspects with tenderness. The different perspective on the events and effects of WWII was interesting, I learned things I'd had no idea about, such as religious perspectives of the time in Europe, and the traditions and life in South Africa.

My 13 yr old daughter is a reader, and she picked this up off the counter to check it out when I'd put it down to make dinner. After reading the back, she asked if she could read it because it sounded interesting to her. After finishing it, I can say this is a quality book, and I have no problems with her reading it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
"The Girl from the Train" starts in April 1944 and spans the next 16 years. It is told from both Gretl's and Jakob's experiences. I found it easy to read and stayed up too late on more than one occasion because I didn't want to stop reading. The characters were realistic and fleshed out. It was interesting to learn about the events that were taking place in Poland during and after World War II. I also was not aware of the German orphans that had been relocated to South Africa.

I received a free copy of this book for me to review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Loved this excellent historical novel! The characters were rich and believable. I haven’t cried while reading a book in years, but must say how psychologically astute Irma Joubert’s writing is, and the narrative was very moving and the characters so authentic and real. I would like to see this book made into a film. Enjoyed it immensely and look forward to ready more by this talented author!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
running target
From the very first moment when I’m falling from the train with Gretl and trying to defend myself against the cuts and bruises of rolling down the hillside, I am on a literary journey like no other. Gretl’s fears are my own as I wonder how she will survive hiding from the German search dogs or even find shelter in a country who despises her Jewish heritage?

Ms. Joubert is a magical storyteller who weaves gripping suspense with heart wrenching emotion into a story based on true events about a little orphan fighting to survive the effects of the Nazi war effort. Little Gretl can’t even relax her guard when she finds herself adopted by Protestant parents because one slip of her past could seal her doom. I was on the edge of my seat until the very last page. An absolute MUST read!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
A very enjoyable read, even though its historical fiction. I teach classes on the holocaust and anything involving that aspect is interesting to me.
This book is a tale about two people who connected because of WWII and the plot follows the life of little Gretl Schmidt from the age of six until the age of twenty-one.

The story starts on the holocaust, moves to a coming-of-age story, then falls into a romance as the two main characters fall in love. You can tell the author was a history teacher for a number of years as the book well written and edited, paying very close attention to historical details. This kept me reading until the very end which which had a nice turn of events.

Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
mark harding
Originally published in Afrikaans, this is Irma Joubert’s first novel translated into English. This book follows the journey of Gretl Schmidt from the time she survives a train bombing at the age of six, through young adulthood and all that happens in between.

I found this novel to be fascinating, as it delves into an aspect of World War II that I have never read about before, and Gretl’s journey from Poland to South Africa is one wrought with heartache and trauma she must fight to overcome. The translation was a bit hard to read, which made it difficult for me to really get into this story, but I imagine the original story flows much more lyrically.

*I received this book from Thomas Nelson Zondervan Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.*
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
fatih serhat gerdan
I heard a lot of good things about this book before I decided to purchase it. Wow! I expected it to be a novel that I would enjoy but had no idea I'd be so wrapped up in the story. It was superb.

I think I felt just about every type of emotion possible while reading this book. The characters were very life-like and believable with lots of depth. As the story unfolds one cannot help but be drawn into the darkness of the times yet have hope for better times ahead.

The thing I liked most about the book is the way the author held my attention throughout and how deeply this story touched me.

If you enjoy historical fiction, especially the WWII era, this is a must read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Spanning several years and multiple countries, The Girl from the Train shares an emotional journey! Uniquely told from the perspective of a young girl, this compelling story is steeped in historical details and boasts wonderful characterization.

Meeting Gretl Schmidt, my heart ached for her and all she endured over the course of her young life. As Jakób Kowalski became Gretl’s protector, I reveled in the bond of love they shared. Theirs is a well-told and richly layered tale of triumph through tragedy.

The Girl from the Train is a beautiful story and a highly recommended read for fans of historical fiction!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. All thoughts expressed are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jenny rellick
I'm pretty picky about what I read - I don't like to spend my limited spare time on books that don't challenge and improve me, even fiction. This novel did exactly that - it is a historical drama that stretched me, as well as a believable romance that charmed me. I learned and cried and hoped and grew - my definition of a worthwhile book.

Gretl Schmidt is a six year old German girl on a train headed for Auschwitz when the story opens. Incredibly resilient, she faces life alone in a strange country after jumping from the ill-fated train and soon loosing her grandmother, mother, and sister. She is befriended by a Polish resistance worker, Jakob Kowalski, who takes her home to his family's crowded home. Her identity opens her to suspicion in the village, because the oppressed peasants hate both Germans and Jews. As wartime political and financial pressures increase, Jakob realizes he can no longer care for her and eventually arranges for his "Gretz" to go to a German orphanage where she is adopted by a South African family. Her name is changed to Grietjie Neetling, and suddenly - literally - a new world of opportunities opens to her.

Fast forward nine years. Jakob has leaves Communist Poland and winds up in South Africa. He has always regretted turning Gretz over to the orphanage, and has to find out if she is happy and well. Jakob discovers that the plucky child he once rescued is now a beautiful young woman. Supported by her wealthy and loving family, she is a student with a remarkable gift for languages.

It would hardly be fair to give you any more details. But Jakob's transformation from mentor to suitor is hardly less wonderful than Gretl becoming Grietjie. Secrets from both their pasts threaten to destroy their relationship with each other and her parents. Jakob finds himself at odds with the Neethling family, and yet, he alone holds the key to healing the daughter they love so much.

I think I found this story believable because it somewhat mirrors my own "transformation" and marriage. It is hard to find a favorite quote in a book with so many great passages, but I think this one from wise Grandpa John sums up this love story well: "Falling in love is like an explosion inside you. You temporarily lose contact with the world. You're floating somewhere in space. You're larger than life itself and smaller than a grain of sand...When the dust settles after the explosion, you look at the pieces that remain. Then you have to decide whether your lives have become so entangled that you can no longer live without each other." That's precisely the decision I faced -and Grietjie, too. Find this book and a day to read it as fast as you can. And don't forget the kleenex.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lindsey toiaivao
** “Just remember, when you suffer and feel the heat of the flames, that’s when God is there. He watches carefully, until He can see His own image in you. He’ll never leave you in the flames too long.” **

“The Girl from the Train” by Irma Joubert, originally published in Afrikaans in South Africa, is a beautiful and gripping love story that can now be read in English.

“Girl” is the story of young Gretl Schmidt, a World War II orphan taken in by young Jakob Kowalski, a member of the resistance fighting the Nazis in Poland. The novel follows their journey and sacrifices over the years, sending Gretl to South Africa in hopes of being adopted. We follow her through the years as she rises from the ashes of her past and becomes, eventually, a strong woman.

Joubert weaves an amazing story filled with redemptive messages — compassion; deciphering between a loving, forgiving God and a punishing God; lies and their impact and destructive force; truth and honesty with one’s self and others; second chances; love and sacrifice; and grace and forgiveness — God’s forgiveness, forgiving each other and forgiving one’s self.

As someone important in her life tells Gretl, “But I believe in a loving God, who, through grace, forgives us when we ask for forgiveness.”

The author beautifully develops the characters of Gretl and Jakob, as well as offering many delightful supporting characters. “The Girl from the Train” is a great historical fiction read that will stir your heart and, at times, bring tears to your eyes.

Five stars out of five.

Thomas Nelson provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
You know how indie movies have a different feel to them than Hollywood movies? Even more so, foreign films with subtitles? That’s how I felt as I read this novel–as if I were watching a foreign film. Perhaps it has to do with the pacing. There’s much ground to cover–two continents and nearly two decades’ worth–which results in, quite frankly, far more telling on these pages than showing. Much of this is necessary to move the story along, but I consequently experienced the story far differently than if its events were shown more rather than told. Though it’s beautifully translated (as far as I could tell!), I felt the story skimmed along the surface, never really letting me experience it from the inside out as the characters did.

I was intrigued by the glimpse into a new (to me) angle of the oft-examined WWII European stage. In this case, it starts with the Polish resistance, and then moves on to the exportation of German kinder to South Africa at the war’s end, which I’d never heard of. (Had you?? How could I not have known about this?) Curiously, however, even though most of The Girl from the Train takes place in South Africa in the 1940s and ’50s, there is no mention whatsoever (except for one completely passing reference) of Apartheid (which was birthed in South Africa in 1948). This seems such a glaring omission–especially as in this novel it’s preceded by the German/Jew context–that it affected my enjoyment of the story. It would be like an American author setting a story in the 1960s South and ignoring the shadow of racial tensions and the Civil Rights movement.

The last part of the story spends quite a bit of time exploring the Catholic/Protestant question, setting these two forms of the Christian faith up as different religions (as they were, indeed, nearly universally regarded in that era). In particular, the story examines if and how these can be joined in a marriage union. Here too, I wanted more. Again, I felt like I was skimming the surface, never really diving deep to understand what was perceived to set these two forms of Christianity apart.

On the plus side, I did find Gretl a charming heroine, and Jakób her courageous and kind counterpart. Because I liked these characters, I wanted to like their story more than I actually did. My conclusion? If readers approach the novel with the right expectations–as they might a foreign film–they will likely find it an original and ultimately uplifting story.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and the TNZ Fiction Guild for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
james basinger
This story took me on a journey about the search of identity and just to belong somewhere. The details were not graphic but they were real and I could picture and feel the emotions through the eyes of Gretl as she grew from a child into a woman. Set at the end of WW2 the story takes us from Poland to Germany and into Africa. I had not heard about children and orphans being taken from Germany and being sent to homes in Africa. I appreciated the research and history that was woven throughout the story. I found that the perspective of a child that lived through WWII made this a heart-touching believable story. I received this book from Fiction Guild for my honest opinion, which I have given.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kiah thomas
This book takes you on a journey far beyond a train ride. Gretl is too young to understand this train is on its way to a concentration camp with her family. Jacob has been hired to blow up a train with German soldiers. This train is not supposed to be there. Their lives go in much separate directions for many years as they deal with issues of family, death, love, and the thing we all long for, acceptance. Will they ever find these things? Gretl has to hide the fact that she is Jewish so she is unable to mourn her family or even talk about them. The family that take her in at first do not warm up to her although she works hard to fit in. She cannot let them know she is the girl from the train.So begins her journey of many miles & cultures. Read this book for a great journey that will stay with you long after the last page which you hate to see coming.
I received an advance copy of this book for an honest opinion. Don't miss out on this one.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Jumping from a train bound for Auschwitz, six-year old Gretl Schmidt can only hope for the same safe result while searching for her sister, mother and grandmother. Realizing she will be alone, Gretl stays with Jakob Kowalski, a young adult Polish student and member of the Home Army, who planted the bomb that killed her relations. After a few years, Jakob sends Gretl to South Africa where she must hide her heritage from her loving adopted family. Reconnecting many years later, Jakob and Gretl soon realize that continents cannot keep hearts separated…

From the novel’s description, I knew I was in for an emotionally heart-tugging read. Full of history, politics, romance, sentiment, heartache, and tension, The Girl From The Train illicits empathy, compassion and remorse in this international bestseller by author Irma Joubert. Well-written with fast-paced sections mingled with slower-paced passages, I think the writing style worked very well for the genre of this story. Definitely an author I will read again.

4.5 (out of 5) pennies

*I received a complimentary copy of The Girl From The Train from BookLook Bloggers for my honest review*
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This story begins when a young girl and her older sister are dropped from the slats of the cattle car on its way to a Nazi concentration camp. When Gretl's sister dies, she finds herself alone and at the mercy of a kind young Polish man fighting the Nazis in the Home Army. This isn't a Holocaust story or a war story, though there are elements of that. It isn't a romance, though what great story exists without great love? It isn't a suspense or a thriller. I can't call it coming of age--though there are elements of that. No, The Girl from the Train is just an excellent, beautifully written story. I couldn't put it down.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
eva truesdale
Jacob Kowalski is on a mission for Poland's Home Army. Blow up the train track bridge, and take out a German troop train. He never imagined that an unscheduled train would be destroyed instead.
Gretl Schmidt has had a rough life for someone so young. Why do people hate the Jews? Where is this train taking them? She escapes the train with her sister, not realizing that her mutti and oma didn't make it. She just wants to find them and go to Switzerland to live with her uncle, like Heidi did. When her sister dies she is left living with a woman who doesn't want to keep her. Her life is unexpectedly changed one day when a young man shows up.
Jacob has no idea what he is to do with a little girl. Right from the start he is struck by her courage and resilience. He takes her home to his family and looks after her, but he is more concerned with the war and the Home Armies desire to fight alongside the Russians. He knows that to do so will only invite communism into Poland after the war, but Germany must be stopped.
When he is injured while fighting, Gretl lovingly takes care of him. He comes to really care about this special little girl. When an opportunity arises for German children to be sent to families in South Africa, he faces parting with her so that she can have a better life. What will happen to this little girl? Will he ever see her again?
This book was different than I expected it to be. I was expecting the story to be set almost completely during World War 2. That is only the beginning. The book actually takes you from Gretl's childhood during World War 2, to her living in South Africa, through her college years.
One of the things that really struck me during reading this book is the struggles that parents must have faced. Raising children during a war, and re-construction of a nation is something I can't even begin to imagine. In the book you see parents deciding to send their children to South Africa to be adopted so that the children will have a better life.
Another thing I noticed in the book was the discussion about religion. There was a little bit of conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism. I found the views to be pretty equal on both sides, but the author never gave a clear decision. It was a good reminder that it doesn't matter what religion we claim to be, the only way to heaven is through a personal relationship with Jesus.
I received this book from the publisher and Fiction Guild in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I like historical fiction and I have been interested in WWII and the Jews and the concentration camps every since I first learned about them when I was in school. How a nation could do that to other humans and the world just look on and do nothing is beyond me. Anyway off my soapbox. This was a wonderful book. It explored the resilence of the Jewish race as exemplified through Gretl and that people really do care as shown through Jakob. They go through many problems and situations some good some bad but you are always routing for these two characters. Great Story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I dont have a long review on this one but a couple things to say. I dont approve of the age difference in thos book! Dont get me wrong its a beautiful and fascinating book but it turned into a sappy romance story. Also inside Jakobs head is berh dirty as he tries to avoid falling in love with Gretl. Hes like 40 and shes 20 something! Im sad to have to give this suchb a bad review but its really fir a adult not a child or teenager. Still I loved it
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
An addictive tale of the healing power of thankfulness and love told through the eyes of a young girl who lost everything and yet gained all. The story starts on a train bound for a concentration camp and ends up with the heroine in South Africa. Without spoiling the story I can say that Gretchen’s path is not the expected one. You will be surprised, delighted, in anguish, crushed with grief and buoyed by hope, disgusted by prejudice, humbled by forgiveness and astonished at the leaps of faith and raw power that surges through a soul in love. You won’t want to miss this book!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ashraf a azeem
I listened to the Audio version of this book and sincerely enjoyed it. The book can be split into two parts. The first part is a history of the lives of two people, and the second is a love story. The two portions of the book felt very different to me, but I enjoyed them both. I read a lot of books but rarely feel moved to write reviews. I liked this one well enough to want to share my impressions with others. I hope you enjoy it too.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I'm going to start off by staying I read a lot of books that take place during WWII. My all time favorite fiction book from that time is The Book Thief, I can read that again and again and never get bored with it. So I jumped at the chance to read The Girl from the Train. Maybe I've read too many books that take place in this era and time in history because while this one is good it just didn't capture me as a reader. I know it's got amazing reviews on Goodreads so don't let me sway you. Check it out for yourself maybe you will love it alot more than I did.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Girl from the Train (not to be confused with the best-selling The Girl on the Train) deserves to be read by every lover of historical fiction.
The title character, Gretl, grabs your heart from the beginning and never lets go. She has endured unbelievable horrors in her short life, but has an amazing resilience and determination. She is an amazing example of a strong heroine who manages to find happiness in spite of her nightmares.

Jakob, the friend who takes care of her, struggles with his own difficulties--from fighting the communists to fighting his growing romantic feelings for the young woman that Gretl becomes.

From World War II Poland to post-war Germany to South Africa, I learned about a part of history I wasn't aware of. More importantly, this story and its characters has stayed with me, and will for a long time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Oh my, I loved this story. The story is set during WWII but is primarily a story about Gretl Schmidt and Jakob. Gretl lost family members and jakob is Polish and is working with those that are fighting for freedom from Germany.

Gretle had jumped off of a train and Jakob found her in the woods. He took her to his family who cared for her. He then read about German children being taken to South Africa to be adopted. The rest of the details need to be read but it is an excellent story.

Through the storytelling, the reader discovers some of the history of the time. The two character's stories work together so well as we learn about the different areas they move on to.

This is a wonderful book to read while wrapped in a blanket with a beverage and just read it until the end.

I was given this book by NetGalley and Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
barbara harris
This definitely is one of the very best novels I've read this year. It starts during the final years of WWII and it's a vivid picture of the time. It becomes a love story and a richly told one. It's filled with complex characters, Most notably Jakob and Gretl. While this has a lot of romance in it, it's just as much a guy's book as a woman's.

Others have gone deeper into plot. That actually is better for you to discover for yourself. There is beauty here, and there's excellent story telling here. My highest recommendation
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Who is the girl from the train? Her name is Gretl Schmidt. She is but six years old. The train she is on, headed to Auschwitz, is blown up by a bomb planted by Jakob Kowalski.
She is the only one that lives. In a twist of fate, Jakob and Gretl are reunited ... but only temporarily.
Then Gretl lands in South Africa ... without Jakob.
Is that the end of their unusual lives?
Wow, what can I say about Irma Joubert? A magnificent story, written with such warmth, depth and emotion, you will savor every moment
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lindsay holmes
It's hard for me to put into words how I feel about this book because for the first 75 pages, it was hard for me to read. Although I would consider myself a person that enjoys historical fiction, there was a political undertone to this story that didn't interest me at all. Once the war ended, I really felt the story took off and I couldn't put it down. I was curious as to what would happen to the main characters, Gretl and Jakob, and although it was obvious where the plot was headed, it held my attention anyway. I liked how the book was written in small sections (especially when I enjoyed it the least), but honestly, I don't see myself reading this book again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
thando m
Well dear readers, I have to admit that it took a little getting into to begin this book but now that I dedicated some time to beginning afresh I have to tell you that I wizzed through this book in a day’s time! I simply couldn’t put it down!
The Girl From the Train by Irma Joubert is a book with a bit of an unusual history. Originally published in South Africa, and then the Netherlands, it became a best seller in both countries! Now it has again been translated, into English this time, and is being published through Thomas Nelson.
Beginning in Poland during the height of the Second World War we meet little six year old German-Jewish Gertl Schmidt and are drawn along into her life story. Gertl is orphaned, family-less, homeless, and hopeless- until she comes into the life of Jakob Kowalski who fights for Poland with the Home Army and against all forces- German or Russian- that want to destroy his beloved homeland. Gertl and Jakob form a strong bond- the kind that can only be forged in the intensity of bombs, and blood, and the pain of relentless nightmares.
In time Jakob and his family can no longer safely care for Gertl in the politically turbulent Poland so he is forced to send her where she can be better cared for, and eventually have a chance at a new life as an adopted war orphan in South Africa.
I was really kind of blown away by this book! Through reading it I realized even on a subject I thought I had thoroughly covered there is still so much about WWII that I do not know and so much I need to learn. Many times historical fiction that is written on this era is told from the point of view of an American or a Brit, having this story told from the eyes of a person who is in the very center of the conflict packs a huge emotional punch. For example, there is a moment early on in the book where knowledge and book hungry Gertl has been studying an atlas and is trying to identify nearby markers and towns but the thing she searched for, Auschwitz, wasn’t on the map. I have to tell you that one small line, one small detail, was like being doused in cold water.
The beauty of this book is in the small details. The storytelling style reminded me (from what I remember) of the Little House series. The style is not elaborate or embellished but is simply related in honestly told truths. In Gertl’s younger years many of her personal observations come off as stark or abrupt but it is simply the nature of a child who has seen and experienced things beyond her years. In time this matures into a special kind of warmth and magnetism as Gertl, now Afrikkans Grietjie Neethling, becomes a young woman.
I am known for loving books that have well drawn detailed descriptions- for a girl who grew up on George MacDonald it’s no wonder really. It’s the quality of those descriptions and what they end up conveying however that are the important part. So often writing can go from in-depth to long-winded in the space of a few words, but that is not the case here. In The Girl From the Train so much is said in so few words- and the effect is very powerfully touching.
On the ‘warnings’ side of things readers should be aware that there maybe a few instances of objectionable material depending on their comfort level with wartime violence or romantic scenes. There is two times that profanity occurs and while I don’t condone that it’s not gratuitous or out of place for the context of the setting. This book also explores the two faiths of Catholicism and Protestantism and does a good job of relating why those faiths are different even while respecting the sincerely held beliefs of both. One little nitpick was that I very much wished the publisher had included some type of glossary at the end for help in pronouncing some of the eastern-European and Afrikkans names and places. I confess I felt rather stupid bumbling through them and wished I could say them properly!
I would highly recommend this book as being the next thing you should read! I was taken in from cover to cover and feel as if I read something worthwhile for my time. It is a book that I know will be driving me to dive back into world history- and left me very satisfied with Grietjie’s new beginnings in the end.

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
alicia robinson
Honestly I had a hard time getting into this book, I kept putting it aside. But I really feel like it didn't catch my attention because it's not what I've been reading the most. It was written very well and I liked following little Gretl into adulthood. It didn't go the way I figured it would but I did like the the way it ended:). It was a good book and I'm glad I read it, can't wait to share it
I received this book free through the publishers fiction guild in exchange for my honest review
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jason shugars
Set in Europe during and after the Second World War, the book focuses on the lives of two people and how the devastation of war brings them together. Six- year-old Gretl Schmidt, a German-Jewish girl, has faced the hardships of war first hand along with her family and now she is on a train headed for Auschwitz. Jakob Kowalski, a fighter in the Polish resistance, unaware of Gretl’s existence, is planting a bomb to the tracks. As the sole survivor of the bomb, Gretl is alone in Poland, a country hostile to her people with no one to look after her or help her survive.

I was kindly given a complimentary copy of this novel from the publishers via BookLook Bloggers, and was excited to delve into the world created by Joubert. Having loved this period of history during my GCSE’s and read almost all of the young adult fiction around the subject, I thought I had quite a large knowledge around the subject – how wrong I was. This concept is not only unique, but introduced me to new parts of the period that I had not previously been aware of. One way in which I think Joubert achieved this, was through her use of two narrative voices. Through Gretl we get the Jewish perspective of the Nazi regime and the Second World War, and this is what is typically seen in ficition regarding this subject. However Joubert chooses to add a second narrative voice, in Jakob, who introduces the effects of German and Russian aggression on the Polish people. In my opinion, I think that it is this use of two interlinked narratives that makes Joubert’s work so unique in comparison to other World War II fiction.

Check out the rest of my review here -
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I loved this story. But I did have some major problems with the last third of it, but I will get to that. Warning: the end of this review will contain a SPOILERS section where I voice my problems with this book and the reason I rated three stars.
This book follows a girl named Gretl. It opens when her mother dies. I loved how this story was told, and the characters therein. Gretl Schmidt leaped off of the page into into my life. I did expect this book to be very intense, and while it was intense in the beginning and in the end, I felt the middle did drag a bit. But understandably, the drag was a necessary view into the life Gretl was beginning to have and important to the evolution of her character. I really liked the way this story took place. It followed Gretl from age six to age twenty but yet isn't a huge book. This book is told mostly from Gretl's POV, though it does switch at times from her POV to Jakob's.

One of my main problems with this book is the romance. Near the very end, Gretl realizes she is in love with Jakob, who is 13+ years older than her. I enjoy the occasional love story with an older man and a younger woman but it just didn't seem to work with Gretl and Jakob. It seemed a bit weird to have a romance between a girl and the older man she'd known basically her whole life. I guess I had a bit of a problem getting past how Gretl was six and then she grew up very quickly and suddenly she's in love with Jakob. I didn't agree with this part of the story. I would have preferred for Gretl and Jakob to just be the best of friends and have her meet a lovely young man someday. </spoiler>

Three out of five stars. Overall a good read, but the ending wasn't right for me.

There is mild kissing in this book, mild violence, and I don't think there's any cussing.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I just finished the novel The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert. It is 1944 in Southern Poland and Gretl Schmidt (six years old) is on a train with her Grandmother, Mother, and sister, Elza (fourteen) bound for a concentration camp. Elza and Gretl are told to jump from the train to save themselves. The girls jump off just in time because this train is blown up shortly down the line. Jakob Kowalski is fifteen years old and a member of the Home Army (resistance). His group planted bombs on the bridge to blow up a German troop train. The train with the Jews was no scheduled to come through the area.

Jakob rescues Elza and Gretl. Unfortunately, Elza becomes ill and does not make it. Jakob takes Gretl home to his family farm where she will live for the next four years. The two become very close during this time. A time comes when his family no longer wants Gretl on the farm. Jakob takes her to Germany to get Gretl into a program that is relocating German Protestant orphans to South Africa. They only want Aryan children (Gretl easily passes and it helps that her father was an SS Officer who died in 1941—and she has proof). Gretl learns to hide her past in order to get a new future.

Gretl never forgets Jakob and hopes to see him again. When Jakob is forced to flee Poland and gets an opportunity to work in South Africa, he jumps at it in the hopes of seeing Gretl again. Will Gretl and Jakob be able to reconnect? The Girl from the Train is told from the perspective of Gretl and Jakob. We get to see Gretl grow up and embrace her new life in South Africa. We learn how Jakob survived the war and how the communists changed Poland (we also get quite a bit of information on communism which made for dry reading). I did find The Girl from the Train to be a long winded book (very drawn out). I did not think it would ever end (and the ending was predictable). The Girl from the Train is basically one long historical romance novel (emphasis on the history). I think that the World War II theme has just been very overdone this year. The writing is good, but I found it difficult to get into the story (to connect with Gretl). I give The Girl from the Train 3 out of 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of The Girl from the Train from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
paul gottshall
Gretl Schmidt and her sister just escaped from an Auschwitz bound train in Poland only in time to hear it explode. After an attempt to walk to Switzerland, they arrive at a farmhouse where Gretl’s sister soon succumbs to a fever. The family cannot provide for another mouth to feed, so Gretl is given to a local Polish resistance figher, Jakob Kowaiski. Jakob begins to care for the girl as a father figure, but soon must leave to fight against the German army that is continuing to invade Poland. After Polish defeat, Jakob has been severely injured and returns home where Gretl nurses him back to health. Gretl has been attending school in his absence and he finds that she has picked up quite a bit of knowledge. After the war, Jakob’s mother tells him that Gretl has to leave because they don’t have enough to care for her under Russian occupation. When Jakob notices an ad in the paper for German orphans that could have a new home in South Africa, Jakob feels it may be her best hope. But can he go through with it?

This was an incredible post WWII read. I always enjoy reading about this era, but this was a new twist on anything that I have read before. The characters that developed through the story were very relatable. I became very attached to both Gretl and Jakob. The supporting characters also played their roles well. The flow was fast and I couldn’t wait to find out the end of the story.

Joubert managed to transport me to South Africa with her descriptions. I’ve never read a book that was set there and my mind’s eye really picked up on it. I even had to research some images to see how they related to what I had imagined. I also enjoyed the history behind the events that she had written. If you are looking for a great read anytime, try this one out.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amber knowles tortolini
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.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I won't go into the plot very much as the other reviewers have done that numerous times. The first part of this story I really loved. The first part of the book was the most interesting, fighting the war, escaping the train, and living in hiding. Somewhere in the middle it started to drag a little bit, it seemed that the living in Africa was too perfect, though the nightmares helped to keep it more realistic.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"The Girl From the Train" is an absolutely beautiful, impactful, emotional, disturbing, and joyous novel. The writing is just about perfect. The characters feel terribly and wonderfully real, and the story is a gorgeous progression. From the first page to the last, this is a gripping and highly rewarding book. This is absolutely one of the best I've read in a long time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
taylor webb
Read this book for an exciting story of six-year-old Gretl Schmidt's escape from a train bound for Auschwitz. A train blown up instead of a munitions train. Gretl's journey takes her from Poland to adoption by a couple in south Africa. To be honest, I did not expect much from this book. I read it because I got it free, but I was blown away by the story. Much better than the mystery I read after it. Don't hesitate to read this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
barroni brown
While this book wasn't exactly what I expected -- I thought there would be a greater focus on the Holocaust -- I did enjoy it for its larger plotting of the simple story of a life. It isn't extremely well-written, but it was passable for entertainment. I wouldn't recommend this book if you want to explore serious historical issues, but if you just want a light read set in a heavy time period, this is okay.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
This review is going to focus more on historical context and less on the prose.

I picked up this book knowing little about the author. I was intrigued by the synopsis - an Aryan-passing girl with Jewish heritage escapes the Holocaust and is eventually adopted by a South African family. I read through the strong first act, set over four years in Poland anxious to see how Gretl would reconcile living in 1950s South Africa with her past. The book actually encouraged me to learn more about the German Children's Fund. Normally, this is a strong indicator of a good book - I love when what I am reading makes me want to learn more about its subject matter.

Boy did that backfire.

Quick recap - during WWII, 2,000 Afrikaners sympathetic to Nazis were interned. However, after the war the National Party returned to power, pro-German Afrikaners formed the GCF to bring 83 German ophans of Aryan descent to South Africa to live with Boer families. One such adoptee was Lothar Neethling. Neethling went on to become chief deputy commissioner of the South African Police and allegedly developed poisons for use against anti-apartheid activists. He was also implicated in a chemical and biological weapons program.

Just what is the surname of the Afrikaner family who adopts Gretl? Neethling.

Had I not done my own research, I may have dismissed the book as light fluff, more concerned with romance than exploring the politics of early Apartheid era South Africa. If that were the case, the book would still fall short as there is little narrative momentum at this point (Gretl worries about how her family will respond to secret X, family learns of secret X, family is fine with secret X, repeat).

But instead, it seems this is a book that is well versed in history - from the Polish resistence in WWII to the GCF. This attention to detail indicates the use of the surname Neethling is no accident. Instead of engaging in the history of the time, the book demonstrates over and over again that Gretl's worries (about her heritage, her past as a Catholic, etc.) are unfounded, because things are "not that bad."

This book is a waste of an interesting premise and setting. If I had realized the author had been more concerned about erasing her countries troubled past rather than examining its complexities, I would not have given it a second thought. Had she chosen a different name for Gretl's adopted family, this lack of engagement may have been more acceptable. Instead, the book comes across, whether intended to or not, as propaganda.

Others may be able to forgive The Girl from the Train for failing to address the past. If you want light romance with some history and faith themes, you may be able to tolerate this story more than I did. However, if you care about the historical context and want a deeper delve into 1950s South Africa, this book will be a waste of your time.

Seriously though, Neethling?!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
michael gross
First and most important I want to thank Netgalley, Thomas Nelson (the publisher), and Irma Joubert (the author) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review. I chose this book to read because of the specific time frame it took place during World War II. I have always been interested in books about this war. The plot of this book reminded me that the times of World War II seems eerily similar to what is going on today regarding the Muslim religion.
This book is about a six year old girl Gretl in World War II who escaped from a train that was bombed by Jakob a polish man. Jakob then takes responsibility for Gretl. In Poland she survives by hiding her German and Jewish roots by becoming a Polish Catholic. Eventually hard decisions must be made and she ends up in South Africa where again she must survive by hiding her Polish, Jewish, and Catholic identities. This book ultimately is about the bond that forms between Gretl and Jakob and how their lives are intertwined. This book is about survival, about the clashes between different cultures and religions. And how people learn to accept each others different beliefs and culture. This book is also about how traumatic events in the past can affect you in your present life. This book was about Gretl who is known by many names. It told the story of how she grew up and found herself, a bit of a coming of age novel. In reading this book it was very evident of the author's love for her homeland, South Africa. The author Irma Joubert is a South African writer who specializes in historical fiction. And this book was a very enriching story.
Overall, I would rate this book 4 stars out of 5. This book was bittersweet. What I enjoyed most was the joyful, peaceful, and hopeful feelings it created within me. This book was even more surprising because I wasn't expecting to feel these positive feelings, being that most books and stories I have read about World War II are horrifying. Don't get me wrong this book had some horrifying moments. This was a true love story about the different kinds of love. That love can survive anything. I really enjoyed the main character Gretl, her childish innocence, her wonder and awe. I enjoyed seeing her grow older, more mature and wise for her years.
One thing that I felt could have been improved upon in this book was that some sections, especially at the end were rushed, and should have been expanded upon. This book was beautifully written, I could feel the author's words. I felt how the author poured her emotions, poured her soul into the written words in this book. This book allowed your imagination to expand. and grow. You can see the story being played out in your head while reading the book. I had a very pleasant experience reading this book. I too felt the butterflies in my stomach hopefully you will to. If you want to join in on this ride than click HERE to purchase a copy of this book.

For more book reviews come visit my blog at
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
liz otte
I liked the historical aspects of the book. Any story set in a "real life" event is interesting. Those us who were not alive during WWII have much to learn. I enjoyed reading it, but I have concerns listed below.

I'm sure it's very difficult to translate from one language to another, and I think the translator did a fine job. However, I don't understand why the translator didn't translate Mutti and Oma. I had no idea that those words mean "mother" and "grandmother," and it took me many, many pages before I finally figured it out. I don't know any German words or names, so I thought those were proper names of two other girls on the train. There were also other relationship words in the book that were not in the glossary, and it took considerable time to figure out how each person was related to the other (aunt, uncle, grandparents, parents). I also grew a little weary of the words "Mommy" and "Daddy." Those childish words are fine when Gretl was using them, but when the author is telling the adult reader about her parents, why didn't the author use "mother" and "father" or their fist names? Likewise with "tummy."

There were several times when things didn't seem to make sense. Why would the children's organization who arranged the adoption know ten years later that Gretl was now in college and be able to tell Jakob exactly where to find her? It seems that it should have been much harder for him to find her.

Here's why I can't give it any more than two stars. I found the book advertised by a Christian bookstore, but, be cautioned: It is not a Christian book. One of the main characters repeatedly worships and prays to Mary, the mother of Jesus, rather than directly to God. He also believes that Mary has the power to protect him. I have never before read a book in which one of the characters prays to a person (living or dead) rather than directly to God, or who worships someone other than God. Scripture, i.e. the Bible, does not support or advocate praying to a person, and the first and second commandments expressly forbid worshiping anyone (including an image or picture) but God (Exodus 20:3-5). Hebrews 4:16 also makes it clear that we can come directly to God in time of need. We need no earthly mediator whatsoever because I Timothy 2:5 says "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." And, finally, the book advocates the marriage union of one person whose beliefs teach salvation through faith plus works with another person whose faith teaches salvation through Christ alone, again defying a Biblical principle (I Corinthians 6:14). Therefore I cannot recommend the book to anyone because of the Scriptural doctrinal errors.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I thought the first half of this book was excellent. That alone made it a very good read. However I figured out how is was going to end so kicked my speed reading into high gear and discovered what I thought was going to happen was reality. I read around a lot books every year and I still consider this a good book. But, it could have been so much better.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
New fact-based narratives set in the WWII era have to have something to set them apart. I believe that the story of the interaction between young Gretl and older Jakob fits very believably. Young Gretl has to endure several identity changes that might confound others were it not for the fact that she is a very plucky, resilient person. Her accidental encounter with Jakob sets into motion a story that propels Gretl throughout her changing life.
This is an adventure story, a love story and a coming-of-age story magically woven together. Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kelly seaman
This novel is compelling historical fiction at its best, with Christian overtones. The main characters are well drawn: Gretl is a resilient and resourceful young girl who carries terrible secrets in an effort for survival; Jakob is strong and heroic as he protects Gretl and himself. They both learn about love, faith and trust during a difficult and emotional journey that takes readers from war ravaged Germany and Poland to post-war South Africa.

I really enjoyed this book and was caught up in the characters and the story. I highly recommend it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I saw my granddaughter’s advance copy and being a fan of Zusak’s The Book Thief the title and time of setting intrigued me. I was not disappointed; in fact I read the book in two settings.
Like Liesel in The Book Thief, Gretl in The Girl from the Train is a gifted child orphaned by the circumstance of WWII. Adult male protectors become significant stabilizers in their socially conflicted lives. Liesel remains Liesel her entire life but Gretl is continuously and significantly changed by others and significant issues stay with her until a reminder incident triggers a solution.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
What a great story. I was captured by this little girl of the age of six. This is a great story. I could not put this book down. The author seemed to put real emotion into telling this story. The book is also well written. I could not picture myself in this little girls shoes. But a really excellent book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kimberly dalferes
Amazing, a must read. So delightful, raw, and emotional. I formed an instantaneous bond with Gretl's character, her spirit is one to admire. The book moves seamlessly from playfully frank yet dashing to horrific. It evoked a buried sense of thankfulness for the conditions I've grown up in during my lifetime. Although, the experiences of children during the war have created unmatched character of strength, resilience, and hope not seen in my generation. I'm so thankful for this read, one I'll visit over and over!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is the story of Gretl Schmidt and her life at the end of World War II and after. She develops a relationship with Jakób Kowalski who "saves" her and helps her escape to a better life in South Africa.

This is not normally a genre (War stories) that I would have read but I loved it! The author does a wonderful job with developing the characters and creating vivid images in your mind to match the story. There is also words from other languages (Polish, German, Afrikaans) but I was able to figure out what they meant with how they were used in the sentences.

I was given this book to review as a member of The Fiction Guild.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
michaela ward
An increcible touching story about the ties that can bind two very different people. In the long run - religion, nationality, and age did nothing to keep these two from forming a very deep bond that will stand the tests of time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This was a love story but not the kind that you would usually encounter. It was a moving story of a little girl, the choices made for her and by her. The heart break of a young girl caught in the middle of the war and how good comes out of hard decisions. Also it's an interesting look of parts of WWII that are not usually covered: Poland's part, Germany sending orphans to South Africa and so much more! Well worth reading!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
The Girl From The Train began when Jakob blew up a bridge as part of his role in the Polish resistance during World War II. When he realized that young Gretl barely escaped the explosion that demolished the train on the tracks, he felt responsible for the orphaned girl and vowed to help her. I liked the premise and didn't mind the young protagonists at first. Their simple view on the horrors surrounding them gave them credibility as narrators and brought an innocent look to the war created by the adults around them. But the simple writing style nagged me, and soon became excruciating to read. I'm not giving anything away to saw that Gretl migrates to South Africa, and once that happened the story just stopped being interesting. There was too much focus on what the people were doing rather than how that made them feel or why any of their actions were important. This wasn't a great read for me.

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sewak singh
What a beautiful story! This book had me hooked from the very beginning. A nostalgic look back into World War 2, with realistic descriptions of the action. I wish this author had more of her works published in English!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
alyssa kohler
It had been a good plan: they would jump off the train, meet up, and return to her grandmother’s rural home. But it didn’t work out and only Gretl and her older sister escaped. The sister was ill, and it wasn’t long before Gretl was on her own. She was found and passed from person to person until she’s given to 21 year old Jakob who persuaded his family to look after her. Although baptized Lutheran, she’s raised Catholic, and was given a small crucifix that she kept hidden after leaving Europe for South Africa.

This is a book that’s received a lot of praise, but I can’t give it any additional accolades. I felt the storyline drifted at times. It began as a World War Two drama, became a coming of age novel, and finished as a romance. Perhaps it was supposed to be a romance all along but I couldn’t get into that aspect of it. Given the history between the characters it felt, for want of a better word, uncomfortable.

I also think the book fails when it comes to the subject of apartheid. Gretl came of age in the late 1950s, when many of the apartheid laws were passed and put in place. As someone who’d been marginalized as a child, I wondered how Gretl might’ve felt as she witnessed the results of those laws. I saw one passing mention of apartheid, but Gretl didn’t seem to have any opinion on it and the similarity of having to carry identification papers and being forced to live in particular areas. Her South African life seemed, for the most part, to be a breeze with little for her to worry about. The biggest issue in her life was that her Afrikaner parents didn’t approve of her romantic partner because he’s Catholic.

One of the most powerful scenes is when a traumatized Gretl recollected her time in the ghetto, before she had to board that train for the camp. The narrative included the reactions of those around her, as they realized that the stories they’d dismissed about the Holocaust were actually true. It’s nicely set up with hints of it appearing in the descriptions of Gretl’s nightmares. How did she live with her past? We only get a slight sense of the weight she carried by keeping quiet about it. But how did Gretl feel when she saw similar injustices? Was there guilt that she lived when others didn’t? I’d have liked to have read more along these lines, because the narrative as it was just didn’t appeal to me.

Thank you to The Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson for my complimentary Advance Reader’s Copy of The Girl from the Train, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jessica sullivan
It grabbed my attention from the very beginning.. love the style of writing. The characters are believable and the plot is engaging. A story that would stay in my mind for a long time. Highly recommended!!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
patrick hadley
I was given this book to read and review. This is not my normal genre. I thought the story was well written. If you enjoy war history and the telling of its effects on everyday people this is for you.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
As a lover of historical fiction this is one of the best books I have read as of late. The author's note that it is based on someone she met, who shared her story with her years ago, makes it all the more interesting!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
peter kieft
Loved this book. From the beginning, the story reaches out and grabs the reader. The plot develops quickly; the characters are feisty, determined, inventive, and believable. I hope the author has the rest of her books translated from Africaans to English. I want to read more.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ellen m
Loved this book. Great story line about little Gretl and her Jakob. I love WWII stories and this one was a true love story. I wish the authors other books were translated into English so I could enjoy them as well!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
liz spindler
Much different than I expected. I had never heard of the children who were moved to South Africa during WWII; in fact, when I saw the glossary of South African words in the beginning of the book, I was confused! I thought I had picked up a WWII book set in Poland! And while the book does start in Eastern Europe, equal time is given to South Africa. I definitely received an interesting South African education while reading this book!

Unfortunately, Gretl and Jakob's relationship was very difficult for me to imagine. I was hoping the book was based on a real story, as I could have then reconciled my mind to some of the subject matter. It didn't appear to be... and I never was able to get my mind wrapped around what took place. It just felt odd and out of place.

Also, although I fell in love with Gretl's adopted family (especially Grandpa John!), I found some language throughout the book to be inappropriate and it turned me off.

The Girl from the Train just wasn't what I expected.

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given, and all thoughts are 100% mine.*
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
brandon monk
I've read numerous WWII historical fiction stories, and this is one of my least favorite. The story is entirely predictable--and a bit too fairytale-like and unrealistic. A girl manages to jump off a train bound for Auschwitz--completely unobserved. Yakob, the leading male character, plants a bomb on the train tracks--intending to disturb a military train. Instead, he bombs the train bound for Auschwitz.

Yakob and the girl end up meeting. Yakob protects her. She eventually gets adopted by a wealthy, perfect, and loving South African family. And Yakob and the girl meet again as young adults. You can guess what happens then.

Simplistic dialogue takes up 95% of the book. There's relatively little detail added to the dialogue. There's no extra text to help develop the characters. And the lack of the details makes the characters seem quite uni-dimensional. In fact, at the end of the book, I didn't even care what happened to the characters. I just wanted the book to be over.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
madeleine dodge
I wanted to read this book as I was on a WWII roll, and from the blurb it sounded as pretty good.

I'm afraid to say it was a big disappointment!
It does start very well: Sometime during WWII a little girl is thrown from a train in Poland. The train is headed for a concentration camp and her grandmother and mother try to save her and her sister.
Her sister is very ill and dies shortly after, but a young farmer "adopts" her and takes her into his family.
When the war is over, as he can't support her, he takes to Germany, from where she is sent to South Africa to be adopted there.

Gretl, the little girl, is lovely: smart, fearless, independent. Jakób, the Polish farmer is also smart, driven, a revolutionary. There is a part in the book, about Czechoslovakia in the 1950's and the political events happening that is extremely well researched and written.

When Jakób and Gretl reunite, many years later, she is the opposite of the little girl: a very uninteresting young woman whose favorite words are Mommy and Daddy.
There is much talk about religion (if I knew about it I wouldn't have requested this book to read), and what makes me more uncomfortable is the fact that Gretl is sent to South Africa as she appears to be pure Aryan. Also, no talk of Apartheid?

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
jen lw
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.
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