Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff
Publisher: Mira Books
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Summary (from Goodreads): A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan’s Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival
Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep. When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.
Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.
The Orphan’s Tale is a beautiful story of perseverance, family and coming of age during World War II. Pam Jenoff whisks her readers into the lives of circus performers during a time period that is so unpredictable and dangerous. There are many wonderfully developed characters in this book, but Noa is one that stands out for her sheer bravery and resilience.
One of the really incredible things about The Orphan’s Tale is the window into a circus performer’s life that Jenoff seems to expertly portray. What kid hasn’t imagined what it would be like to fly on a trapeze or live amongst wild animals? Although it does sound like a romantic type of lifestyle, the depictions that Jenoff creates in this novel from her research are quite telling of the struggles and hardships these performers endured during World War II. What is quite amazing is the family these large groups of entertainers create and how they will protect one another no matter the cost.
Jenoff has chosen a very interesting time period to base a novel with a circus theme. It does not seem like a time that many in Europe would have had the opportunity or money to be able to attend such an event. However, as is shown in The Orphan’s Tale, it was also a time where people attempted to seek some sort of normalcy and a few hours to forget the outside world. As the story progresses, unfortunately, even the circus has a hard time escaping the terror of WWII.
While it is hard to choose a favourite character in this book, Noa is such an incredible character that grows up before the reader’s eyes. The determination that Noa exerts is so admirable and her ability to adapt to so many different situations at such a young age makes The Orphan’s Tale a story of survival. Noa’s imperfections and impetuousness make her believable and quite relatable as well. Even though she is dealing with adult problems, Noa is still a young woman who has much to learn.
The Orphan’s Tale is a unique story that weaves together the struggles of people living through the Second World War and a family of entertainers. This book will really amaze and entertain the reader, while ripping their hearts out at the same time. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a different kind of story during a very tense time in history.