Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.
The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert was written in Afrikaans in 2013 and is now available in English. It has been very well translated and keeps the flavour of the Afrikaans language through the English words on the page. This is a story about Gretl Schmidt, a young girl who escapes from a train bound for Auschwitz and Jakob who is responsible for planting a bomb under the bridge that this train is destined to travel over. Jakob is part of the Polish resistance, called the “Home Army” and his journey becomes intertwined with Gretl’s as their actions on that fateful night change everything and set a course for their futures.
Within these pages you’ll find a story about courage and fear and how the terrors of war tear at the soul and how, through it all, love and hope endure. This is a touching and sometimes heart wrenching story, seasoned with a bit of humour and romance.
I particularly enjoyed this book because of the rich history and because once Gretl lands in South Africa, she ends up in Pretoria. (A place where I spent my junior years! – and not only that in the same suburb!)As a South African born, living abroad, the terms and words are as comfortable as your favourtie pair of warm slippers. As hard as it is to believe the prejudices of those days were very real and Irma Joubert gives readers a peek into what it was like to live through WWII and in Africa in the late 1940’s, through to the late 50’s. Gretl will crawl right into your heart from the first chapter, I loved her forthrightness.
This book is a history lesson and fiction novel all rolled into one and I thoroughly enjoyed it and can see why it has been a best seller in Afrikaans, Dutch and promises to be so in English too.
I wish I could get my hands on the original Afrikaans book though! (Yes, I can read Afrikaans!) Oh wait, I can, it is on Amazon!
In case you are interested, the original version, Tussen stasies (Afrikaans Edition) is available on Amazon.ca . Tussen stasies means, “between train stations”.