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. -- copyright Deborah Peifer, Bay Area Reporter, May 14, 1998
Plucky characters and Hollywood-style action-adventure characterize this pleasing first novel, set in Europe during the last months of WWII. When Pascale Tailland, a translator in the WAC, makes a split-second decision to rescue a stranded refugee, the wheels of a colorful lesbian romance are set into motion. The refugee, a scrappy young Polish woman masquerading as a man, and Pascale quickly forge an indelible bond and are almost as quickly separated by mischance. Each embarks on a quest to find the other and, along the way each recruits a lively cast of characters to her aid. Clarke adds some depth and resonance to what is essentially a quick-paced swashbuckler by examining the refugee experience during and directly after WWII. All told, Clarke has created a diverting, unabashedly sexy romantic lark. -- Publishers Weekly, May 11, 1998
The time and place is immediate postwar Europe. Thousands of displaced persons are unable or unwilling to return home, fearing that their wartime suffering would only be magnified. One of them is [Witold], who has been passing as a man until Pascale, a translator with the U.S. Women's Army Corps, sees through her and is smitten. Pascale's fellow soldiers warm to her when they think she's fallen for a Polish refugee "boy." In her efforts to get [Witold] to the States, Pascale is aided by a host of accomplices, all lesbian or gay: a well-known news broadcaster, an upper-class WAC officer, and a nurse. [Witold], who since the age of 17 has known only death and destruction, has to employ her own cunning and charm, winning over and transforming a young French prostitute shunned as a Nazi collaborator. In this romantic tale of love conquering all, [Witold] and Pascale are put to one final test. [...] Clarke's first novel is a tribute to the ingenuity of lovers in desperate circumstances. -- Library Journal May 15, 1998