Book Review: The Children's Train

The Children's Train is written by Italian author Viola Ardone and translated into English by Clarissa Botsford.


The story was both and beautiful and sentimental as we see the main character at a crossroads between what he has always known and what he wants. The Children's Train takes place in post World War II Italy and follows seven year old Amerigo Speranza. Amerigo lives with his mother Antonietta in Naples, Italy in a small apartment. Antonietta is often harsh and not outwardly loving with Amerigo as she's more concerned with keeping food on the table and clothes on their back. She wants her son to go to school or learn a trade, anything that can help them with their financial situation. The two make ends meet by doing odd jobs in the neighbourhood like sewing and collecting rags. Antonietta often talks of Amerigo's father, whom he's never met, who's gone to America seeking his fortune.


When the opportunity arrives for Amerigo to spend the winter up north with a family who can care and provide for him, Antonietta makes the decision to put him on the train. Along with many other poor children in the neighbourhood, Amerigo heads north and comes to enjoy his new surrounds and his new family. When the time comes for him to return home, nothing is the same—including his relationship with his mother. One night, after a devastating fight, Amerigo makes a decision that will impact the rest of his life.


Amerigo is both a lovable and dimensional character. We see him grow and change as he is exposed to this life he's never known but has wanted so badly. His friend, Tommasino and adoptive brothers, Rivo and Luzio are equally fun and we see how pivotal those relationships are to Amerigo. Viola did an amazing job building the setting and making the environment come to life. Her description uses all five senses, putting us 1946 Italy.


I only wasn't a huge fan of grown up Amerigo as I thought he would've been more like his young self, but I understand how his choices effected his persona. I wish he and his mother could've had a better relationship as their love for each other is almost tragic in a sense.


Overall, this book was a great piece of historical fiction.


My rating: ★★★★★