In Short: During World War II, Turkey evacuated nearly 20,000 Jews from Nazi occupied countries. This is historical fiction recounting of the Crescent and Star Train that transported thousands of displaced individuals to Turkey.
Why I Read: I think this one was an Amazon Daily Deal? I haven’t heard anything else about this one and I bought it on whim.
Thoughts in General: I remember in one of my undergrad history courses learning about all of the displaced Jews in the years leading up to, during, and certainly after World War II but I’ve since forgotten much of the details I learned. When I first started Last Train to Istanbul I wasn’t entirely sure what the story was about, but it starts out with a young Muslim Turk woman who eloped with a Jewish Turk. They ran off to Paris after their families disowned them even though Turkey was much more progressive and secular than many of the other European nations at the time. I admittedly also forgot that part of Turkey is considered European.
I learned a lot while reading Last Train to Istanbul. I learned about the cultural climate of Turkey during the lead up to World War II and it’s efforts to bring home its citizens (and free those who weren’t citizens) from Nazi occupied nations such as France. I learned about the cultural climate in France and what it meant to be an occupied country. It seems that I should have known a lot of these things, but I was hazy on the facts and spent quite a bit of time on Google reading supplemental information. I love when a book has me wanting to know more!
In that respect, Last Train to Istanbul was well worth the read. I did have some issues with the book, though I’m not sure how much of it might be due to the translation. The writing never pulled me in and while the story was always interesting to me it felt very ambitions–there were lots and lots of themes going on as well as many many characters. As a result I often couldn’t quite grasp which story was the main story and a lot of the book ended up feeling tangential or splintered by the end. This is a bestselling book and Kulin is apparently one of the more famous Turkish writers, but you know I’m always looking for a read that will really grab me by the heart.
Bottom Line: I’m so grateful to the historical pieces Last Train to Istanbul filled in my WWII knowledge puzzle, but I can’t help but wonder what was lost in translation. I recommend this one but not as an earthshattering or even an overly emotional read.
Just when I wonder if I’ve read all the angles on World War II I discover a new story. Have you read any books that provide a lesser known history of World War II? Have you read Last Train to Istanbul?