Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Diana Fontaine Reviews The Children's Train

"Have you ever read a book that hit you so hard you had trouble getting into the next one? 

For the last two weeks, I’ve been in a reading slump since reading The Children’s Train by Jana Zinser. It has been a long time since I’ve been completely devastated by a book. But when you tackle an issue as a serious as the plight of Jewish children during the holocaust, you either have to go big or go home. Zinser went big, very big.

How do you write about an event like a holocaust with a hopeful, uplifting tone without sugarcoating the brutality? Zinser finds the answer using the perspective of children. With their wide-eyed innocence and trusting demeanor, they can present such an event through the prism of optimism because live hasn’t yet made them cynical. Yet the protagonists are old enough to understand the difference between words and deeds and the importance of taking action.

The Children’s Train focuses on a group of young Jewish kids living in Berlin. It follows them from the night of broken glass to the fall the Third Reich. During this time, a group of them are rescued from the brutality of the Nazis by escaping on trains that transported children to England before Germany invaded Poland and closed it’s borders. A few of children due to mitigating circumstances are left behind. Throughout the novel, we can see contrasting viewpoints of life during the second world war.

Like most historical fiction, I did pause briefly to do some research. The main protagonist, Peter, as a teenager joins the Nazi Resistance and completes some inspiring feats. Some of these feats I questioned the realism of because of his age. However, I discovered that during the second world war that were many young teens who played great roles in the Nazi Resistance and even went on some pretty dangerous missions. Growing up in the world where child soldiers are a real thing, I am not so sure why I originally had doubts.

The Children’s Train was a hard book to put down. I read it quickly in two reading sessions over a few days. With my current eye strain issues, I now find it necessary to pace myself when I read in order to preserve my eyesight. With its quick tempo, lovable characters, and multiple viewpoints, I found it hard to take those necessary breaks."

See full review at by Diana Fontaine

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