(I have put reviews from the Bay Area Reporter [on this page, below], the Lesbian Review of Books, Publishers Weekly, the Lambda Book Report, the Library Journal and Booklist. The others [many, I'm glad to say] tend mostly to reiterate the blurb on the back of the book, so I have not included them.)
Bay Area Reporter (14 May, 1998)
Strangers on a train
Caro Clarke's first novel is a fascinating look at refugees at the end of World War II, and at the extraordinary efforts one woman makes to find a future in a ravaged Europe. It also has the most convincing love-at-first-sight plotline I've ever read, one that renews my faith in the possibility of falling head over heels and never regretting that for a moment.
Pascale is an American translator traveling with her fellow Wacs through newly liberated Europe when she notices a painfully bedraggled refugee waiting at the train station where her train is momentarily stopped. Although the refugee is dressed in men's clothing, it is clear to Pascale that this refugee is a woman, and in an impetuous moment Pascale decides to hide her on the train and transport her to less dangerous territory. When she meets Witold, Pascale knows that this is the woman with whom she will, no, she must spend the rest of her life. Witold feels the same powerful certainty, but when the women are separated, they must, in spite of almost overwhelming obstacles, find each other again.
Clarke does a fine job of creating the chaos and terror of post-war Europe, the suffering of the victorious French, and especially the real dangers faced by Polish refugees who were unlikely to survive capture by the Russians or repatriation to Soviet-controlled Poland.
The passion felt by her two lovers is compelling; their efforts to reconnect are extremely moving. Clarke's minor characters are credibly portrayed, their casual homophobia chilling. Best of all, though, I liked the way some characters were willing to take great risk, with no possibility of personal benefit, to help strangers in need. I guess I want to believe that such people exist; it was quite wonderful to find them in this novel.
The Wolf Ticket is a fascinating novel, romantic in the best sense, filled with possibilities for a better way to live. Add humor to that mix, and eros of the highest order, and you have a novel well worth your time. I suspect it's one you'll enjoy rereading as well, and that is a rare gift indeed.
© Deborah Peifer, Bay Area Reporter
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