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The Children's Train
Cover of The Children's Train
The Children's Train
A Novel
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"The innocence of childhood collides with the stark aftermath of war in this wrenching and ultimately redemptive tale of family, seemingly impossible choices, and the winding paths to destiny, which...
"The innocence of childhood collides with the stark aftermath of war in this wrenching and ultimately redemptive tale of family, seemingly impossible choices, and the winding paths to destiny, which...
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  • "The innocence of childhood collides with the stark aftermath of war in this wrenching and ultimately redemptive tale of family, seemingly impossible choices, and the winding paths to destiny, which sometimes take us to places far beyond our imaginings." – Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends

    "Ardone's beautifully crafted story explores the meaning of identity and belonging...recommended to fans of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels." – The Library Journal

    Based on true events, a heartbreaking story of love, family, hope, and survival set in post-World War II Italy—written with the heart of Orphan Train and Before We Were Yours—about poor children from the south sent to live with families in the north to survive deprivation and the harsh winters.
    Though Mussolini and the fascists have been defeated, the war has devastated Italy, especially the south. Seven-year-old Amerigo lives with his mother Antonietta in Naples, surviving on odd jobs and his wits like the rest of the poor in his neighborhood. But one day, Amerigo learns that a train will take him away from the rubble-strewn streets of the city to spend the winter with a family in the north, where he will be safe and have warm clothes and food to eat.

    Together with thousands of other southern children, Amerigo will cross the entire peninsula to a new life. Through his curious, innocent eyes, we see a nation rising from the ashes of war, reborn. As he comes to enjoy his new surroundings and the possibilities for a better future, Amerigo will make the heartbreaking choice to leave his mother and become a member of his adoptive family.

    Amerigo's journey is a moving story of memory, indelible bonds, artistry, and self-exploration, and a soaring examination of what family can truly mean. Ultimately Amerigo comes to understand that sometimes we must give up everything, even a mother's love, to find our destiny.

About the Author-

  • Viola Ardone was born in Naples in 1974. A high school Latin and Italian teacher, she holds a degree in literature and worked in academic publishing. She is the author of two previous novels in Italian, Le ricette del cuore in subuglio and Una revoluzzione sentimentale.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 26, 2020
    Ardone takes a moving look at the experiences of a seven-year-old child in post-WWII Italy in her tender English-language debut. In 1946, Amerigo Speranza is one of a group of children sent by train from Naples to Northern Italy to spend time with an affluent family as part of a Communist Party initiative to provide a break from poverty. Despite their anxieties, the kids remain capable of selflessness, giving up their winter coats for the family they leave behind, making the departure scene a searing one. When Amerigo arrives in Modena, he ends up with Derna, a woman who has no affinity for children; nonetheless, they eventually bond, and Amerigo’s interest in music is nurtured by Derna’s piano tuner cousin-in-law, leading to unexpected complications when he’s reunited with his mother six months later. The overall tone is somber, as the book is told from Amerigo’s perspective looking back on his life, but Ardone does introduce some lighter moments, as when one of Amerigo’s fellow refugee children is asked if he’d ever seen an earthenware pignatta down south. His reply: “We had the sticks but not the pots.” With a mix of stark realism and wistful reflection, Ardone succeeds in portraying the challenges of growing up under trying circumstances.

  • Library Journal

    November 1, 2020

    Amerigo Speranza spends his days on the streets of Naples scrounging rags for his mother to sell. Food is scarce and poverty rife in post-World War II Italy, especially in the south, until charitable Communists organize a train to take the children north and place them with families who can feed and clothe them. Thus begins a life lived in two worlds, with Amerigo feeling out of place in both. Is he a violinist who eventually travels the world giving concerts, or a child of the slums living off his wits? It is a dichotomy that never resolves, making it impossible for him to feel at home with anyone or anything, until his mother dies and he revisits his childhood home. Ardone's beautifully crafted story explores the meaning of identity and belonging, but readers may be disoriented by the break between the child Amerigo and the middle-aged man, a disruption that leaves one longing for more development to connect the two and an ending that is less rushed and unconvincing after the exquisitely slow and atmospheric buildup at the beginning. VERDICT Ardone's first English-language translation is recommended to fans of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels and for libraries where those are popular.--Cynthia Johnson, formerly with Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Viola Ardone
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