Monday, September 22, 2014

The Hungarian Gold Train

I have been noticing a definite trend in historical fiction lately for authors to write about the two world wars. Notably, first there are the two series by the writing team of Charles Todd: one staring Inspector Rutledge as a Scotland Yard detective recently returned from World War 1 and their newest series about Bess Crawford who serves as a nursing sister in France as well as sometimes in the Mediterranean war zone. There are other series as well and they will be discussed in the future.

Today’s choice, however, is a new novel entitled “Love andTreasure”  by Ayelet Waldman.

In the aftermath of WWII, Lieutenant Jack Wiseman is stationed in Salzburg, Austria. His assignment is to guard and catalogue the "gold train"--a trainload of treasure stolen by the Nazis from the Budapest Jews during the Holocaust.

He falls in love with a young Jewish woman from Budapest and asks her to marry him, but she is determined to live in Israel and refuses his advances. Suffering a broken heart, he feels compelled to take a small pendant he finds among the jewellery on the train to remind him of her.

The story now skips ahead seventy years to when Jack is dying of cancer. He asks his beloved granddaughter to discover who the owner of the pendant was and to try to trace her descendants. This takes her to Europe where she falls in love with with an unscrupulous art dealer.

The final part of the novel goes back in time and tells the story of how the pendant came into existence. Told from the point of view of a doctor of psychiatry, this section seems to be completely out of place at this point.

The subject of the gold train has been well researched by the author and since it was new to me, I found it fascinating to read about. Both the characters and settings are well developed. However, the plot while intriguing jumps back and forth in time, which tends to stop the flow and makes it feel disjointed. I was never sure what the actual conflict was and, in the end, there didn't seem to be a resolution. It leaves the reader somewhat unsatisfied.

With regard to the language, if this were a movie, I expect it would be rated "R" for very strong language. So if this upsets you, be warned, readers. Personally, I find too much swearing quite irritating. Three stars for this book.

Photo History WWI Hungary - A Hungarian soldier on the Italian front (colored)

A Hungarian Soldier in WWII
By Madboy74 (Own work) [Public domain, GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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