... devastating ... In a time when many parents are again facing the impossible choice of seeking safety for their children, even if it means separation and uncertainty, The Last Train to London reads like a warning note from the past. Yet the novel also glimmers with hope: the heroism of everyday people putting their own comfortable lives in jeopardy to help others.
I was fascinated by the novel's premise and enjoyed learning about how thousands of children were shuttled to safety via Kindertransport. Just like a train, the first one-third of the story unfolded slowly before gaining momentum and a more constant speed. The next third chugged along nicely, allowing me to form an affinity for each of the main characters, especially once their stories converged. Even though the book was long and detailed, the short chapters definitely helped it move along more quickly than expected, and I liked that newspaper articles were included. By the time I reached the last third, it was full steam ahead, and I couldn't put it down ... Nonfiction history buffs will appreciate Meg Waite Clayton’s meticulous research and attention to detail, while fans of historical fiction will love the personable characters, as well as the emotion poured into the story. I found the scenes at the train station, in which the parents had to say goodbye to their children, especially poignant and excruciatingly heartwrenching ... an incredibly unique, hopeful and inspirational story about a strong, fierce and determined woman. Even though I’ve read numerous books set during WWII, it was a unique subject for me and definitely needs to be shared with the world.
... brings to vivid life the extraordinary bravery of one fiercely dedicated childless woman who is attempting to save the lives of literally thousands of innocent children as Hitler marshals his forces across Europe. By writing the Kindertransport story as a novel, Meg Waite Clayton captures the humanity of the young victims and the inhumanity of those who were ‘just following orders’ more than any biography could. A memorable addition to the literature of World War II and one that is eerily relevant to present-day migrant struggles the world over.
The best parts of the new novel The Last Train to London are the scenes where Truus alternately charms and stares down Nazi officials to carry 'her children' safely past the maze of border checks ... wonderfully rich in details of the Austrian and Dutch political debates of the time, via the news articles by Kathe that are interspersed throughout the pages. As well, the novel shows how difficult the basic logistics were for the rescue organizers ... Even the most fraught rescues, however, start to drag down this book’s page-turning plot when there are two many similar encounters with Nazi guards, too much fretting by Truus’s husband, and too many repetitive discussions that move the action barely an inch ... Many of the other characters, unfortunately, fail to develop beyond clichés: the spunky, smart schoolgirl; the sensitive boy who yearns to be a writer; the best friend who turns out to be a closet Nazi; the self-sacrificing dying parent ... But who needs vivid fictitious people, when there’s a real-life, strong, canny, loving heroine like Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer?
... deftly weaves the story of how this brave and committed woman went about her mission and, in particular, the impact she had on two Austrian teenagers ... Despite one quibble — I would’ve liked a glimpse into the future of lovebirds Stephan and Zofie-Helene — my own journey through this story was a rollercoaster of sorrow, anger, joy, and hope.
... [an] excellent novel based on actual events ... Clayton effectively captures the dim hope of survival amid the mounting terror of the lead-up to WWII. This is a standout historical fiction that serves as a chilling reminder of how insidious, pervasive evil can gradually seep into everyday lives.