I love this book, so much, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to start off the posting for this book blog!
Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenhoff
Original Release Date: February 21, 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Themes: WWII, Nazi Germany, Circuses, Courage
Features: Reader’s Guide included, Excerpt from The Kommandant’s Daughter included
My Rating: 4.5/ 5
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.
I was walking through Costco, yes Costco, looking for something to treat myself with once I had completed my MLIS and I came across a number of novels that made a nice little WWII collection and I couldn’t resist. Having a) volunteered as a palaeographer deciphering cursive for war-time immigration records and b) also having performed in a circus for a number of years (German Wheel and Lyra if you care to know) The Orphan’s Tale immediately caught my eye.
I was immediately drawn in from the first few pages as the tone was so approachable and the voice so personal that I found it difficult to put the book down. I never once felt like there was a lull in the action, or that too much time was spent setting up for major events as the typical slow spots were replaced by gut wrenching memories. The prose is simple, accessible, and easy to engage with and the narration alternating between Noa and Astrid keeps the tempo quick (and me on the edge of my seat).
Jenhoff’s intimate knowledge of the Holocaust and the depth of her research into the circus industry really shines through. She has created a narrative that is not only captivating but also genuine and authentic. Drawing on the real stories of the Unknown Children and Circus Althoff, this narrative feels almost too real. The effective is beautiful, haunting, heart warming and heart breaking all at the same time. Also, Noa’s emotions and pain when she hits the safety net, spot-freaking-on.
Finally, without giving too much away, I would like to take a moment to appreciate that there is no neat-and-tidy happy ending. The losses and questions left looming beget the time and circumstances of the setting and really help to drive home the magnitude of simply surviving. I was touched by the redemption to be found in a most despised character and the acknowledgement that some experiences will continue to haunt us regardless of how hard we try to leave those parts of us behind. Too often a good story is lost when all loose ends are tied up, sometimes in the most awkward ways, and thank goodness The Orphan’s Tale didn’t fall into that trap!
Would I recommend reading this book? Heck yes! Go buy it, borrow it from a friend, check it out from the library or hit that trusty download button. I don’t care how you do it, this is one book that you don’t want to miss!
Up Next: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa