Midnight Train to Prague

Atlantic Monthly. Nov. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9780802119735. $26. F
A fateful 1927 train journey with her mother introduces Natalia to several people who will be influential in her life, including a female doctor called to assist a sick man and a dashing motorist whom Natalia spies from the train window. She soon learns the motorist is Miklos Count Andorjan, a journalist who also owns a large estate in Hungary. Marriage to Miklos allows Natalia a welcome escape from her flighty, immature mother, but the arrival of World War II forces Natalia and Miklos apart. When her path crosses in Prague with that of the doctor’s young daughter, Anna, the two women’s stories intertwine.
VERDICT In her second novel (following 1998’s Breathing Underwater and two story collections), Canadian writer Windley delivers well-researched descriptions of daily life in 1920s–40s Eastern Europe that will appeal to readers who enjoy immersive scene setting. The number of characters and the frequent jumps between them give the book a slightly crowded feel that is particularly noticeable in the first half, but the second half is more consistently engaging. Recommended for those readers who can’t get enough of World War II historical fiction, particularly for those interested in civilians’ experiences in Eastern Europe.

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