Last train to Istanbul – on a train through Turkey


The last train to Istanbul is the story of  two Turkish sisters just before and during WWII. Sabiha is married to Macit, and through his government position, we gain an insight into Turkey’s politics of that time.

Selva has gone against her family’s wishes to marry her Jewish lover, Rafo.

They move to France and become caught up in the Occupation there.

These two sisters and their situations act as the dual narrative adopted in this novel where we move from the view point of each of them, from Turkey to France and the fate of the Jews during the war.

I like most people have studied and read a lot about the war and what happened to the Jewish people but I haven’t read anything from Turkey’s point of view. Despite this being a fiction book, it relies heavily on real events and this is what makes it so interesting – to think of what Turkey and the Turkish people must have thought of the powers fighting to get them on side and how to protect its nationals despite the politics.

I enjoy finding about history and how people dealt with the day to day reality of a war which overshadowed so much for so long. I know little of Turkey and have not read any literature from this part of the world so I am pleased I was given this copy to review as my first introduction to this fascinating country. I can’t decide which of the two book covers picured above represent the book the best – perhaps they both do in their own way –  memories of the train which is the focal point of the novel. The other one pictures the beauty to be found in Turkey and  which should never be lost or forgotten despite the horrors of war.

I once had to do a language test where a made up language was presented with some of its rules and you had to translate a piece of text based on that new language. Turns out it was half Turkish and I have always been interested in the language and the thought process of its people having since studied a little of the proper language for my own entertainment.

I’m grateful that this has been translated and so is available to so many more people than it would have been.


The trip on the train – the last train to Istanbul was an amazing part of the book and so vividly described. Those heart stopping moments and the joint despair of all those on that train. All those forged papers, all those nationalities and personalities with one goal –  to escape Hitler’s Army.

The book is a story of not only a train journey but a story of hope and of human resilience in one of the worst periods of recent world history.


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