I have been taking a small break from reading for the past month but finally got my hands on “Midnight Train to Prague” by Carol Windley, The description of the book sounded intriguing – the story of two European women through the Second World War in Prague. Now, to be honest, you can put the world Prague in book title and I will buy it because Prague is home and Prague is love but to be honest again, this book disappointed me.
I rarely write something negative about the books that I read – I think you can find something good or useful in any book but “Midnight Train to Prague” was lacking two essential things for me – good fluent writing and plot development.
In terms of writing, it felt clunky and did not stick well together for me – I was tripped by some phrases and expressions and it did not feel cohesive to me. I think a good writing is when you can forget that you are reading and get lost in the story – it should facilitate the story and not stumble you.
Secondly, the plot development felt anticlimactic to me – in the story, you follow two main characters – Anna and Natalia who are of different ages and come from different background and try to survive through Nazi occupation of Prague. While we spent with Natalia 100 pages at the beginning (out of 300 total in the book), barely half the amount was dedicated to Anna. Similarly, it felt like about 200 pages were the description of the preceding events and the story actually started to develop closer to the end of the book. I found it hard to read through the first part – I restarted the book several times before I was finally able to get on good terms with it.
What I did like though is that the book was quiet factual – a lot of cultural references made sense and were true – as a Czech person, I was well familiar with them. I also like the detailed descriptions of meals, of Anna’s family evenings, of briefly referenced Czech resistance in the story… The description of these simple moments weirdly brings the sensation of home:
In the morning, She and Miklos walked around the city, marveling that it had been so little touched by the last six years of war. And yet the city, beautiful, shining in the pale autumn light, had transparancies, veils that parted, wavered, and she saw herself alone, stranded in the city under occupation by a burtal murderous regime.