The Last Train to London: A Novel

The Last Train to London: A Novel

by Meg Waite Clayton


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The New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Exiles conjures her best novel yet, a pre-World War II-era story with the emotional resonance of Orphan Train and All the Light We Cannot See, centering on the Kindertransports that carried thousands of children out of Nazi-occupied Europe—and one brave woman who helped them escape to safety.

In 1936, the Nazi are little more than loud, brutish bores to fifteen-year old Stephan Neuman, the son of a wealthy and influential Jewish family and budding playwright whose playground extends from Vienna’s streets to its intricate underground tunnels. Stephan’s best friend and companion is the brilliant Žofie-Helene, a Christian girl whose mother edits a progressive, anti-Nazi newspaper. But the two adolescents’ carefree innocence is shattered when the Nazis’ take control.

There is hope in the darkness, though. Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance, risks her life smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to the nations that will take them. It is a mission that becomes even more dangerous after the Anschluss—Hitler’s annexation of Austria—as, across Europe, countries close their borders to the growing number of refugees desperate to escape.

Tante Truus, as she is known, is determined to save as many children as she can. After Britain passes a measure to take in at-risk child refugees from the German Reich, she dares to approach Adolf Eichmann, the man who would later help devise the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” in a race against time to bring children like Stephan, his young brother Walter, and Žofie-Helene on a perilous journey to an uncertain future abroad.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062946935
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/10/2019
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 17,902
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Meg Waite Clayton is a New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently Beautiful Exiles. Her previous novels include the Langum Prize—honored The Race for Paris; The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction (now the PEN/Bellwether); and The Wednesday Sisters, one of Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Essential Best Friend Novels of all time. She has also written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, and public radio, often on the subject of the particular challenges women face.

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The Last Train to London: A Novel 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous 11 months ago
crying as o finish this lovely book. so appropriate in this time of immigration problems in the US.Fell in love with the characters. Can't wait to suggest it to fellow readers.Pat Goellner
Anonymous 6 months ago
This book is a different take on stories about trying to escape Nazi impressment and murder. The characters are believable and the story is interesting.
Alan Kolnik 27 days ago
Rarely have the horrors of the Nazi period been so realistically brought to life as the Jews and others live through the occupation of Austria. The drama of brave women facing down Eichman in order to save hundreds of children makes it impossible to put down. Finally, in England, living through the slow process by which foster parents gradually chose the child they would take home you live the hopes and rejections of the young survivors. Not any easy book to read.
Jane_Wilson 4 months ago
Exquisitely detailed, impeccably researched and deeply affecting, this novel imagines the experiences of children sent by their families to England during the occupation of Austria by the Third Reich, as well as those of the volunteers who risked their own lives to shepherd them to safety. Their stories are carefully and gently rendered, told just as one who has survived such trauma does. My step-mother and her little brother were among those refugee children, escaping Austria to an uncertain future, surviving in an orphanage until, unlike most of the children they traveled with, they were reunited with their parents. This compelling novel reminds us of the power of humanity.
BringMyBooks 7 months ago
This one took me a little bit of time to get into, because there were short chapters from multiple POVs and I had to orient myself around who was who, what they were doing, and where they fit into the story - but I'm so glad I didn't give up because this book was AMAZING. I have read a few books about the Kindertransport program in Europe, but this stands out as the best among those that I've read. The research that went into the story was incredible and evident on almost every page, and I was absolutely fascinated by Tante Truus, the real woman out of the Netherlands that helped save more than 10,000 children during World War II. I can't recommend this book highly enough, truly. It's well worth the read even if you've read many other WWII Hist Fic books - but especially so if you've never read any centered on the Kindertransport programs before. Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the gifted book and opportunity to read and review it prior to its publication date! This in no way affected my review, all opinions are my own.
Shortcake5 More than 1 year ago
Holy Cow!!! I thought I had read everything that had to do with the Kindertransport, however I missed a lot on my journey to understanding until The Last Train to London rode into my universe. Ms. Clayton has created a world where heartache, Heroism, and horror blend together to honor men and women who tried to do what was best for the Jewish Children of WWII torn German, Austria and the surrounding areas. Stephan Neumann Is an ordinary Austrian teenager, however what is inordinately different is that he is a phenomenal writer who loves the brilliant math prodigy, Žofie-Helene Perger daughter of a “rabble rousing journalist” and whose family owns the most famous chocolatier factory in all of Austria. The Last Train to London is his story. It’s also. Madame Geertruida Wijsmuller’s (Tante Truus as she was known to those she saved) story, and the thousands of children she helped save from the terrors of the Concentration Camps of WWII. Those adults that ran the Kindertransport were hero's. They risked their own lives and their families lives into the danger of themselves being residents of any of the horrific concentration camps. We owe them the stories that are told of them to help open each other’s eyes so we don’t have a repeat of the terror of trying to annihilate a whole race of people. People of the Jewish faith, ones related to me and my German ancestors. People who believe in peace and love. This is their story, this is a story we all should read and learn from. I highly recommend The Last Train Of London as not only as a great read, the factual history is dark, deep and revealing AND one that is timely and important. Thanks, to Netgalley for the opportunity to read The Last Train to London in lieu of my honest review.
JHSEsq More than 1 year ago
The Last Train to London is a story about a time that must never be forgotten. Ironically, it is a contemporary reminder of just how quickly matters can escalate -- with draconian consequences. Clayton's story begins in December 1936 . Stephan dreams of being a playwright and Žofie-Helene has already proven herself a brilliant mathematician who is receiving private tutoring. Along with their friend, Deeter, the three dream about their futures as they practice acting out Stephan's characters. They are innocently and blissfully unaware that since 1933 Truus has been using cheap replicas of her jewelry and other tricks to smuggle children past Nazi soldiers into Amsterdam, assisted by Klara Van Lange, her dedicated but naive apprentice. She and her devoted husband, Joop, have suffered the heartbreaking loss of several unborn children. And although they would like nothing more than to raise their own child, Truus is fully cognizant of the risks she takes in order to shepherd little ones to freedom and that her absences from home, coupled with the danger she faces, would force her to abandon her efforts. In successive chapters, Clayton's focus alternates between Truus's activities, and those of Stephan and Žofie-Helene. Clayton intersperses news stories from the era that demonstrate the increasingly-strained relationships between European nations, the Nazis' encroachment beyond Germany, and the United States' initial response. The technique is highly effective. The Last Train to London tells but one of the many stories of heroism, bravery, and dedication that ultimately brought defeat to the Nazi regime. Clayton's approach to her subject matter is measured and successful. She demonstrates the impact of history upon her characters with restrained realism which illustrates the depth of their extraordinary resilience and commitment to those they love and the tasks history has assigned to them. Truus is deeply conflicted, questioning why she cannot carry a child to term and feeling that she has let her husband down. She declares, "I'm a woman who can't bear a child in a world that values nothing else from me!" even as Joop assures her that she is "a woman doing important work, in a world that badly needs you." Eventually, in Clayton's handling of her story, Truus finds peace in her fate. The Last Train to London is powerful, engrossing, and absolutely heartbreaking -- at certain junctures, extremely difficult to continue reading. For that reason, it is a book that needs to be read because it is also full of hope, power, and strength. It is a beautifully crafted reminder that one person can make a difference. Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.
whatsbetterthanbooks More than 1 year ago
Haunting, heartwrenching, and heroic! The Last Train to London is a compelling, emotional interpretation of the life of Geertruida Wijsmuller, a Dutch Christian who as part of the Kindertransport rescue efforts helped transport close to 10,000 predominantly Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied European cities to the UK for safety just prior to the breakout of WWII. The prose is tense and expressive. The characters are vulnerable, innocent, and courageous. And the plot, set in Austria during the late 1930s, is an exceptionally moving tale about life, love, strength, bravery, familial relationships, heartbreak, loss, guilt, grief, injustice, malice, hope, and survival. Overall, The Last Train to London is a beautiful blend of harrowing facts and evocative fiction. It’s a powerful, pensive, affecting tale that highlights humanities ability to not only be excessively evil but incredibly selfless.
LHill2110 More than 1 year ago
A beautifully written, meticulously researched, fictionalized history of the Kindertransport effort which managed to rescue 10,000 children from Nazi occupied Europe in the nine months prior to the outbreak of WWII (relocating them in England which temporarily waived immigration requirements for the effort. A similar effort in the U.S. was quickly quashed by FDR himself.) We follow two narratives that slowly weave together: one follows Geertruida Wijsmuller or “Tante Truus,” — the Dutch woman who drives the Kindertransport effort from the politicking at home to the many, many, individual rescues in Europe. The other follows children and their families in Vienna who will eventually become part of Tante Truus’ transport. I loved the characters — particularly the Austrian children. Clayton succeeded in making these children so bright and so real, their pain and determination nuanced and completely beyond the brief words I can find to describe them. Stephan Neuman — a 16-year old, budding playwright — and his five-year old brother Walter. Theirs is a highly cultured family, and I loved the immersion in the rich cultural world that Stephan inhabited. Stephan’s friend Žofie-Helene Perger — a mathematical prodigy whose non-Jewish mother is a journalist who speaks out against the Nazis putting herself and her family at great risk. And how can you not love Tante Truus who literally can’t bear to think about a child getting left behind if there were anything at all she could do to prevent it. The real brilliance of Clayton’s book lies in the meticulous portrayal of the many tiny details that comprise life at that time — the underground tunnels, the linotype machines, and mouthwatering descriptions of the chocolatier’s trade. Hovering like a black cloud over these small details, the progressive hardships and changing attitudes of neighbors and friends, the slow shame that creeps up on children who are suddenly treated as different, the insidious and constant fear, disbelief, and tension that inhabits every moment. At the same time, the macroscopic details of global policies — the committees, the bureaucracy, the movements, and the fear on the part of foreign populations and governments as they slowly turn their backs on what was happening to the Jews (and other undesirables) in Europe as the Nazis plow their way through the continent. The book is utterly gripping. For me, this is the best of the recent spate of WWII / Holocaust books: it felt incredibly real, and I was surprised to learn new things about a topic in which I’m quite well-read. I appreciated that the ultimately uplifting story was focused on survival and rescue, rather than the horrors and despair of the camps. A surprising extra: enduring the frustration (with our characters) of watching countries closing their borders to such desperate need (even though Jewish societies had offered financial support to ensure that host countries would not bear the costs) gave me a new perspective on the refugee crises facing the world today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think most of us have read our share of historical fiction. And a lot of it centers on WWII. Well, Meg Waite Clayton's The Last Train to London is certainly in that category. But that's where the similarities end. First of all, the story does not take place in France or Germany. It mostly happens in Austria. Second, the story starts in 1936 and ends in 1940. Most historical fiction runs during the war itself. Third, this is all about a Dutch woman, Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer, who saved thousands of Jewish children. An historical fiction writer by the name of Kristin Hannah (ever heard of The Nightingale and The Great Alone? uh...yeah) said: "An absolutely fascinating, beautifully rendered story of love, loss, and heroism in the dark days leading up to World War II." I'm not going to post the blurb about the book. I think you can get the gist from the 1st paragraph. But let me give you some observations about the book along with some practical matters relating to publication, book tour, and distribution. First, some of my thoughts about The Last Train to London: 1. It's a story that I'm pretty sure has never been told. 2. The amount of research that went into this book is mind-boggling. 3. I had my share of emotional reactions, but I don't typically cry. There is a scene where I actually did cry. And I am perfectly fine with that! 4. Meg is such a darn good writer. So if you combine good writing with great storytelling and fascinating material, The Last Train to London is what you get. Now on to non-content considerations: 1. The book is available September 10. You can, of course, preorder it. 2. Meg's launch will be at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto on Monday, September 9, at 7:00. Everybody is welcome. 3. Meg will also be in Northern California bookstores on September 10, 11, 12, 20, 24, and 26 (you can go on her website for locations). 4. Bookstores have made Last Train an Indie pick for September. 5. Booklist has given it a starred rating. 6. Publisher's Weekly calls it "standout historical fiction." 7. It's being published in 19 languages. 8. Meg's film rep will be presenting it to the studios. 9. Here's the link to Meg's website: The Last Train to London 10. And, finally, her screenplay version of the book has earned her a spot in The Writer's Lab, sponsored by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. Is that enough publishing bling for you? People, this one will grab you. Get a copy on September 10 so that you can start reading it right away!
Tangen More than 1 year ago
WW2, War is Hell, historical-places-events, historical-figures, historical-research, love, historical-fiction From Austria, home of the Von Trapps, to the Netherlands, home of Anne Frank. This is the first part of the journey of the brave children rescued from Nazis by many courageous people, but especially the woman known to them as Tante Truus. She is different from Oskar Schindler, but equally driven. This is real history dressed in the finery of fiction. The publisher's blurb gives a sort of overview of select characters and part of their stories, no need to further recap. A wrenching story, but well worth telling. I requested and received a free ebook copy from HarperCollins Publishers via NetGalley. Thank you so much.
SilversReviews More than 1 year ago
I'm here to help you were the words the children longed to hear and words they trusted belonged to Tante Truus who is an actual woman named Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer. THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON focuses on saving Jewish children by this woman who is said to have saved 10,000 children. We meet many characters that are frightened because of what is going on in Germany and the rest of Europe as well as meeting the frightened children. The reader sees what is happening in the daily lives of the European people, and the wonderful work Tante Truus does by secretly transporting Jewish children to safety. Each chapter has a very clever title, and Ms. Waite Clayton did amazing research. The beginning took a little while to figure out what actually was going on and who was who, but it all worked out. The book truly depicted the era and Ms. Wijsmuller-Meijer's work. If you enjoy historical fiction and want to experience an excellent history lesson even though it details the cruel treatment the Jewish citizens endured during this era, you will want to take the time to read THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON. You also get to see the many good, helpful people along with the distasteful ones. Ms. Waite Clayton’s writing and the cover are definitely pull-you-in. A marvelous, heartbreaking, and well-researched book you won't want to miss. 5/5 This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
TJReads More than 1 year ago
Wow oh Wow, doesn’t even begin to describe this book. I have been fortunate enough lately to have read some mighty fine books, but this is by far, the best of the year for 2019 and possibly 2018, as an avid reader, I read about 100 a year. I cannot give this story a high enough review for how beautiful it is. The writing is spectacular, the character development is done so well, and I absolutely loved the short chapters, her descriptions were so on the mark, you could envision just exactly what she was describing. Based upon a previous review, I did begin the book with writing down the characters, and it worked wonders until I got more comfortable with everyone which didn’t take long. I fell in love with so many of the characters, Stefan, Zofie-Helene, Mutti, Tanta Truus, and especially Peter Rabbit. I expect great things from this story, anyone who enjoys reading about the Kindertransport in WWII, this is a book you need to pick up, sit back, take your time and devour this piece of work. If you don’t read WWII books, I highly recommend you pick this book up, sit back and enjoy the ride. This one has it all, love, laughter, courage, tenacity, suspense, sorrow, hope, and faith, I could go on and on. Absolutely an awesome beautiful book!! I was very pleased to have been given the opportunity to receive this book from HarperCollins Publishers through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. This one gets the highest 5*****’s I can give; it would get more if possible.
ColoradoGirl71 More than 1 year ago
4 WWII Kindertransport stars Another stellar entry into the world of historical fiction set during WWII. This time mostly in Austria. This book provided a fascinating look into the world of Vienna shortly before the Anschluss and then through the war. There were the things you would expect from most books set during this time – terrible treatment of Jews, Kristallnacht, oppression, and brazen racism. The difference in this book is the focus on Jewish children that were sent away by parents and the heroic efforts of a Dutch woman – Truus Wijsmuller. I can hardly imagine what these parents went through to say goodbye to their children. Nor can I imagine how difficult an undertaking it was. Nearly 10,000 Jewish children made their way to England and were often the only surviving members of their family. One interesting fact for the trains is that they didn’t take very young children, because it would be too hard to care for them in transit with minimal adult chaperones. This book was well researched and took a bit of time for me to be drawn in. I really enjoyed the characters of Stephan and Zofie-Helene and seeing the world through their eyes. Truus was a fascinating character as well and I’m glad this book has highlighted her efforts. I wish I could say that decades later we no longer have situations like this in the world, but this book is a good reminder that we shouldn’t repeat mistakes of the past. I wish more countries were willing to take in refugees. This book is well worth your time.
paigereadsthepage More than 1 year ago
This novel is based on the organization and implementation of the real Vienna Kindertransport that was led by Geertruida Wijsmuller. This fictional story occurs prior to 1940, and primarily happens during 1938. We see a Dutch couple, Truus (Geertruida) and her husband Joop Wijsmuller, who are childless. Truus is a brave and outspoken woman who risks her life countless time to seek refuge for helpless children. We also see the rich Jewish family of Stephan, who is stripped of everything once the Germans invade Austria. There is the family of Zophie(Stephan’s best friend), whose mother is a journalist reporting the true crimes of the Nazi’s and eventually is on the run. And, there is also Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi in charge of ridding Germany of its Jewish population through emigration. Beginning in 1936, we see the pre-invasion environment of Austria through the eyes of Stephan and Zophie. The “re-culturing” that Hitler aimed to achieve is a common topic of discussion in Stephan’s household among his parents and family members who are strong admirers of art. Soon after the Nazi’s have began assaulting their culture, German soldiers in their brown shirts with swastikas march in while Stephan and Zophie rehearsing a play. How will Zophie, an Aryan, react when Stephan is treated with brutality by Nazi’s? Meanwhile, after invasion, Truus plans to transport a large number of children in danger to London. It was hard for me to get invested in this story. There were too many characters in motion for me to get attached and emotional. With the chapters being so short, it also took a long time to get to know them. There was too much dialogue between Truus and Joop that was about everyday things which overcrowded their character. It felt like too much information was included about the planning process and mundane arbitrary paperwork that went into Truus’ operations rather than focusing on her “in action”. While the information was appreciated since lending to authenticity, it took away from the story and the characters. At times, they felt so far away from me because I felt clustered and weighed down in intentions, ideas, and procedures. I wanted to be in my feelings, but it didn’t happen. The story was at a dull but tolerant trot until 65% (on a Kindle) in which the plot starts to build and the story starts to take flight…but it’s almost over at that point.