The Children’s Train by Jana Zinser
The Children’s Train comes at a time when everyone has been talking about Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See. With books such as Doerr’s Pulitzer winner and others, like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Book Thief, one wonders how passé Jana’s book is. All these books bring to light, the traumatic experiences of children, who suffered because of the heinous ambitions of one man. Would Jana’s book add something new to the theme, or just be one of the many, that join the bandwagon of a tried and tested formula???
The novel starts with a heart-wrenching dedication……
“It is with great passion that I tell the story of these children who lived in a time of tremendous evil and had to be bold just to stay alive. Although the children in my story are fictional, they represent both the many children who rode the Kindertransport and those who were not lucky enough to get a seat on the train. Since the moment I heard their historic tale, they have not left my mind. The Kindertransport children came to live in my conscience and would not leave until I told their story. The Nazis killed six million Jews. One-and-a-half million of those Jews were children. Peter and Becca represent two of the more than ten thousand children who safely escaped to England on the Kindertransport. Most of the Kindertransport children never saw their parents again. All of them survived in their own ways and found their own paths in the world. If their tragedy taught them anything, it was that as long as there is life, there is hope, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, love. The children who survived these times are now in the twilight of their lives. But, in each, I imagine the heart of a child still lives and remembers what it was like to face the fear and sorrow that no child should ever know. They have shown us how valuable life is—and how hope can push us to survive beyond anything we thought we could bear. If we have learned anything from the struggles of their young lives, we will not be silent and stand by when evil comes calling. We will fight back”
……….and then it was difficult for me to put the book down.
Along with Peter, there are many other characters and Jana skilfully manages to narrate and connect their respective stories. While Eva and Eddie live the horrors of the camps in Germany and Poland, Becca’s comfortable life in London, is marred by nightmares of never seeing her family again. The only thing that Peter has to hold on to is his love for music. “Violinists are fearless,” Peter countered. “Have you ever tried to play Mozart?” While everything that was dear to these kinder is taken away from them, what stays with them is their music. The stories are simple and easy to read.
Even though a lot has been written about WW2 and Hitler’s death camps, many stories are lost in the pages of the history books. I personally was not aware of the Kindertransport (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kindertransport), though I had read enough about the efforts made to rescue the Jews from Germany, Austria and Poland.
The Children’s Train, though not a literary marvel, is a very well researched book. The writing delineates the traumatic experiences and keeps the readers engrossed. The sadness, misery, love and most of all- HOPE, reflect through the pages.
YES….. Jana’s book captures the dark period of our modern history and makes us think, and then think again! I would recommend this book to young adults, and adults as well!