The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

March 8, 2017 Whitney Review 2 Comments

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam JenoffThe Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff
Published by Mira on February 21st 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley

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 by Pam Jenoff could easily have been yet another novel about surviving WWII. At first, I was nervous as it seemed to mirror Water for Elephants and while that in itself is a good story I found the ending to be disappointing. Therefore, I hoped for a different result. Fortunately, I was rewarded and then some.

The author has brought to life a variation that could only be contained under the big top she has expertly created. The Orphan’s Tale has bold, brave characters that were as mesmerizing as those of an aerialist.

While all the actors in this big top undergo hardship it is Astrid and Noa who take center stage. Astrid, a trained aerialist has lost everything, her family has been taken from her and has been disowned by her husband, a german SS officer. After these atrocious blows she returns to what she has always known and takes refuge with a rival circus who is willing to hide a jew in plain sight. Noa, the novel’s other protagonist has also been cast off by her family after an unwanted pregnancy. In her own despair of losing a child takes another aboard a train to certain doom. By chance, these women meet and form a bond that can only be compared to that of a childhood Best Friends Forever bracelet. It was endearing and I was touched by the lengths they went to for one another which somehow softened the darkness of the plot.

However, women were not the only stars of the show, Peter, a clown with hatred for the new regime brushes off the inevitable consequences his performance would bring. His scenes were some of the more heartbreaking because of the aftershocks it caused. Lastly, was Herr Neuhoff, the Ring Leader of the circus and the Oskar Schindler of the story. While his fate was clear to me from the start his need to help others no matter the cost became difficult to read as I knew it would eventually end in tragedy.

The ending was like this year’s Best Picture winner. It was expected that La La Land would win but instead a turn of events occurred that literally had persons saying “What!” From the start, I had a feeling how the story would end but it was the path that led there that is worth the journey.

Pam Jenoff’s The Orphan’s Tale is a enthralling historical fiction novel, it rips your heart and is a remarkable, courageous feat.


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