cover image Last Train to London

Last Train to London

Meg Waite Clayton. Harper, $27.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-294693-5

Clayton (Beautiful Exiles) reaches into the troubled lives of the Third Reich’s civilian victims, drawing readers into one woman’s efforts to save children in this excellent novel based on actual events. Geertruida Wijsmuller, known as “Tante Truus” and part of the Dutch resistance, is determined to risk everything to save children of all ages despite—or because of—her inability to bring a pregnancy to term herself. In Vienna, the lives of two children are highlighted: Stephan Neuman is Jewish, and because he turned 17 in 1938, he’s barely allowed to escape to England in the 1938–1939 Kindertransport, which will not accept 18-year-olds. Stephan’s friend and budding beloved, 15-year-old Sofie-Helene Perger, is not Jewish, but her mother is a journalist who refuses to stop writing articles critical of Hitler. Stephan, an aspiring playwright, must adapt to the changes in his life, which was once filled with wealth from his father’s famous chocolate factory. Math prodigy Sofie also tries to adapt, uncertain about how to help Stephan without threatening her own family. The children and Tante Truus’s stories don’t intersect until later in the book, when she secures them safe passage to England due to a daring, last-second decision. 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. Agent: Marly Rusoff, Marly Rusoff & Associates, Inc. (Sept.)