MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO PRAGUE by Carol Windley

From the publisher:

The acclaimed author of Home Schooling returns with Midnight Train to Prague, a timeless tale of friendship, romance, betrayal, and survival that spans the turbulent decades of the twentieth century, through two world wars and between countries and continents.

In 1927, as Natalia Faber travels from Berlin to Prague with her mother, their train is delayed in Saxon Switzerland. In the brief time the train is idle, Natalia learns the truth about her father―who she believed died during her infancy―and meets a remarkable woman named Dr. Magdalena Schaeffer, whose family will become a significant part of her future. Shaken by these events, Natalia arrives at a spa on the shore of Lake Hevíz in Hungary. Here, she meets Count Miklós Andorján, a journalist and adventurer. The following year, they will marry.

Years later, Germany has invaded Russia. When Miklós fails to return from the eastern front, Natalia goes to Prague to wait for him. With a pack of tarot cards, she sets up shop as a fortune teller, and she meets Anna Schaeffer, the daughter of the woman she met decades earlier on that stalled train. The Nazis accuse Natalia of spying, and she is sent to a concentration camp. Though they are separated, her friendship with Anna grows as they fight to survive and to be reunited with their families.


Carol Windley’s novel is a book about feelings and emotions and reactions to the greatest horror that has touched our planet during its long history.

The opening has two of the principal characters meeting by chance on a train going from Berlin to Prague in 1927.  Natalia Faber is traveling with her mother and while the train is stopped in Switzerland meets Dr. Magdalena Schaeffer, a woman whose family will play an important part in Natalia’s life. Later, in Hungary, she meets Count Miklos Andorjan who is a journalist who is not averse to high adventure in going after a story. During the next year Natalia and Miklos marry.     

Years later with the Second World War underway, Miklos travels to Russia to report on the German invasion. When he fails to return Natalia travels to Prague where the couple has decided to meet in the event of Miklos’ apparent disappearance. There, she encounters the depravity of the Nazi occupation and loses her innocence in experiencing the killings, the arrests, the persecution of Jews. Natalia is arrested in the last months of the war accused of spying and sent to a concentration camp. 

The descriptions of the inmates and what happens to them in the camp is handled in an emotion-charged sequence. The camp is liberated by the British and the captives brought to centers for both medical treatments and attempts to reunite them with family.  Natalia, hoping to reunite with her husband, takes a job working for Americans staffing one of the placement centers.     

Displaced persons are sent out to receptive people in many countries and descriptions of these are also handled well by the author who does make it a point to indicate that the U.S., England, and other countries turn away the refugees in spite of having adequate room to accept them. It is impossible to read the book without experiencing an emotional attachment with the people described. Needless to say, the novel is an all-night read with a sigh of relief at the ending. Kudos to the author for her work in bringing us this story.

11/2020 Paul Lane

MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO PRAGUE by Carol Windley. Atlantic Monthly Press (November 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-0802119735. 352 pages.

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