The Child on Platform One

Written by Gill Thompson
Review by Katie Stine

In this harrowing novel, we follow two storylines, one in Czechoslovakia, where Eva Novak is a sixteen-year-old piano prodigy in 1930. On her way home from lessons, she is assaulted by the Hitler Youth. When we see her again, she is married to a much older widower. She becomes pregnant, but they enjoy only a few years as a family before Hitler invades Czechoslovakia and Eva makes the terrible decision to send her child to England.

The other storyline is of Pamela Denison, the wife of a Foreign Office minister in the British government. Too comfortable for her Quaker upbringing, Pamela is snug in Hampstead, her son at private school, and a maid to care for the house. When the war breaks out, the family is thrown into disarray. Through her charity work and rare ability to speak Czech, thanks to an earlier convalescence in a Czech hospital, she ends up shepherding a trainload of children from Prague back to England, taking Eva’s daughter home with her.

The book draws on numerous true events, including the Kindertransport, where Jewish children were transferred to England. The narrative also shows the disbelief of the cruelty occurring, from the Czech Jews who would ultimately be transported to the camps, to the rest of the world when they learned of it. There are numerous coincidences in this book, all for narrative effect. Normally I’m not a fan of such happenchance, but in this novel, it was a relief. Writing with the backdrop of such overwhelming brutality, I was happy the author gave me those meetups of old friends to hold onto. This is an engrossing and heartbreaking read. Highly recommended.