Title: The Orphan's Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff
Publisher: Mira Books
Publication Date: 2017
Amazon: The Orphan's Tale ; Current Price $18.47
My rating: 9.5/10
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.
This book didn’t hook me from page one, but by the time I got to the end, I was speed-reading. I had to know what happened next! It was these early “set up” chapters, however, that built the work into its masterpiece. The details of those situations are blended in as the story develops, which means a reader just has to have a little patience. I’m so glad I pushed ahead though, because I was quickly rewarded and have to admit I was even content with the conclusion! For me, it satisfied my desire for justice and a “happy ending” while managing to retain an element of surprise.
Overall, The Orphan’s Tale weaves a very real story of love, loss, and friendship in the surreal setting of the big top. What I find most appealing about the theme of this book is that the idea of pretending to be someone you’re not is played out literally as the characters put on costumes and become an act. Noa and Astrid have both played different roles throughout their lives and the inner dialogue that Jenoff creates to accompany the struggle of processing these past lives while living in the present is heart-wrenching. In a good way! …if there is such a thing!
Recommendation: There is action and the plot does move along fairly quickly, but this is a character-driven novel. If you enjoy that dive into deeper personal feelings, this would be right up your ally. It is not, however, your typical WWII read where the war is loud and prominent. Here, the war serves as background context, brewing under the surface and coming to light in the circumstances of the characters and situational additions of Nazi police force. The idea, fear and fallout of the war is ever present, but if you were looking for a WWII read, there are other options I would recommend first.
The writing is artful, full of emotion and puts you in the heart of the circus
I gave the book a rating of 9.5/10 because of the way it was slow to start but it was well worth it in the end. I loved this book and will read it again.