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The Train to Warsaw

a novel

Published by Grove Press


Foreign editions: France, Italy

Jascha and Lilka escape separately from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. Reunited years later, they are living in London where Jascha has become a celebrated writer, feted for his dark tales about his wartime adventures.


One day, forty years after the war, Jascha receives a letter inviting him to give a reading in Warsaw. Together, traveling by train through a frozen December landscape, they return to the city of their past. There they will recount to each other the stories of their wartime love and survival. When they unwittingly find themselves back in what was once the ghetto, they will discover that there are still secrets between them.


A riveting story of the nature of desire and the cost of survival, The Train to Warsaw is a haunting and unforgettable portrait of a man and a woman who cannot escape the past.

"Every exile dreams of the return home. Edelman's intimate tale lets us eavesdrop on a couple's return to Warsaw, traversing decades of conflict, betrayal, and secrecy - in war as in marriage. Love, it turns out, may be the only country one ever has hopes of returning home to." - André Aciman, Author of Out of Egypt: A Memoir


"Gwen Edelman's spare, intimate narrative belies the sweeping devastation of what's beneath the alternating rage and despair of survival; and a desperate love that spans a lifetime. Edelman lays bare the tragedies of 1940's Warsaw in a series of dreamlike images all the more haunting because they're drawn from history. I could not put it down. This is a fearless, achingly important work of fiction." - Jamie Quatro, Author of I Want to Show You More


"Gwen Edelman's writing is so deceptively simple, so quietly poetic, that the torrents of emotion catch one by surprise and sweep one away. The dialogue is stunningly real and the characters fully alive in this tender, unflinching tale of love that survives the unresolved - the irresolvable - traumas of life." - Michael Lavigne, Author of The Wanting


"In this lyrical exploration of memory, there is more urgent sensuality and haunting desire than anything I've read in a long time. The Train to Warsaw kept me reading late into the night - saddened, aroused, angry, and grateful." - Joanna Hershon, Author of A Dual Inheritance


"A tale of the Holocaust's lingering wounds, told in a polished prose of distilled intensity...Edelman has written a well-creafted study of exile and return whose depth exceeds its length." - Publishers Weekly


"An irresistible story told by two lovers. Ardent, fierce, shocking, and unforgettable. Gwen Edelman weaves the unthinkable into her gorgeous, tantalizing web." - Mary-Beth Hughes, Author of Double Happiness


"The Train to Warsaw is a stunning novel exploring the enduring wounds of the Holocaust, but it is also a deeply truthful meditation on how we can never fully know each other, even after several decades of marriage. Jascha and Lilka's search for a Warsaw that has disappeared is utterly compelling and affecting." - Allison Amend, Author of A Nearly Perfect Copy


"An aging couple, survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto, revisit Poland after a 40-year absence. Edelman's short second novel (War Story, 2001) unspools in telegraphic paragraphs signifying a journey both physical and spiritual for the two protagonists. Edelman skillfully reveals the characters' deepest misgivings and regrets, as both realize they will never be at home in this world, except - and only sporadically - with each other. A fine rendering of tormented souls." - Kirkus Review (starred)

War Story

a novel

Published by Riverhead Books

Foreign editions: UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Israel, Japan

Winner of the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger

A Koret Jewish Book Award finalist

Kitty and Joseph meet in a bookstore in New York. She is thirty-two, an aspiring writer. He is sixty, a Viennese Jew, a famous playwright who has survived the Holocoust. In a faded bohemian hotel, they begin an obsessive and all-consuming affair.


Night after night he spins stories for her, tales of prewar Vienna, his childhood in Amsterdam hiding from the Nazis, his literary triumphs, the countless women he has loved and left. One day, he tells her, he will leave her too.

"What can a new writer like Ms. Edelman say about the savage effects of the past that has not not already been said by the likes of Primo Levi, André Schwarz-Bart, Cynthia Ozick, Isaac Bashevis Singer, William Styron and many others?...War Story stays with its two characters, with the memories of Joseph, Kitty's memories of Joseph's memories and the way history feeds a certain passion and ensures the impossibility of love. It is Joseph, and Ms. Edelman's stark, intelligent portrait of him that gives War Story its distinction...The accomplishment of War Story is to have created a character who is entirely believable - indeed, you feel that you have encountered someone like him yourself - and yet entirely different from any other being you've encountered, in life or in literature." - Richard Bernstein, The New York Times


"War Story, Gwen Edelman's brilliant first novel, opens a new perspective on the history of the human heart; it's a tale of the Holocaust as it is lived not in memory, not in a library or in one of endless conferences, but in the real world, between generations, between lovers." - Adam Zagajewski


"The spare language is seductive, as are Joseph and his horrific tales. With this resonant character, Edelman has convincingly tapped into the slow suffocation that follows the tragedy of war." - San Francisco Chronicle


"A class act, spare, sardonic, fierce, and utterly unsentimental." - A. Alvarez


"War Story takes on huge, messy topics- the Holocaust, romantic love, the seductive power of stories- and tailors them to the human scale. There's no shrinkage, nothing is diminished in the process, but at the novel's end, vast enigmas seem for a moment graspable." - Adam Begley, The Guardian


"Grand and enduring themes...a haunting first novel. If War Story makes an argument for love's inadequacy in the face of such personal and historical tragedy, it also suggests that memory can act as a kind of redemption. As Edelman weaves a narrative out of secondhand recollections, the quiet beauty of her prose strikes the same gorgeous, lonely note again and again- a death knell for Joseph, and for Kitty, a chime marking the inexorable passage of time." - Publishers Weekly


"The title contains the irony that the book is both a war story and a love story. For the armed conflict in question is not only World War II, but also the battle - of divergent values and experiences - between the story's lovers. War Story makes for exhilarating, if horrific reading. - Newsday

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