In 1936, 15-year-old aspiring playwright Stephan meets Zofie-Helene, a mathematics prodigy. She loves theater and knows of a series of tunnels under the city of Vienna that lead to the local theater, allowing them to observe rehearsals. They hit it off immediately, but their story of young love darkens quickly because Hitler's Nazi party is about to roll into Austria and wreak havoc. Stephan is Jewish, Zofie-Helene is Christian, and her mother is an outspoken journalist exposing Hitler. The teens are in the Nazi crosshairs, and they eventually become involved with Kindertransport leader Geertruida Wijsmuller. The Dutch activist-housewife has been quietly saving the lives of Jewish children by smuggling them out of Germany. It is dangerous work for Wijsmuller because she accompanies the kids herself and they don't have official identity papers; only a few can travel under her passport without raising suspicion at border crossings. Suddenly it's no longer a handful of children needing her help. Frightened parents, about to be killed or sent to concentration camps, shove their babies and toddlers into Wijsmuller's arms, pleading with her to give their children a better life elsewhere.
The Last Train to London is based on the real life of Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer, aka Tante Truus to the children she saved. Author Meg Waite Clayton (Beautiful Exiles) inserts a Romeo and Juliet element into an already heartbreaking true story of a heroic woman who smuggled hundreds of children out of Hitler's grasp. This is a solid and tenderly told tale juxtaposing budding young love against a backdrop of a well-documented time of cruelty. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer