The Orphan’s Tale
by Pam Jenoff
Source: ARC Netgalley & Harlequin
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.
4 of 5 Stars
This book broke my heart in quite a few different ways. It took me a little while to get into it and connect with the characters, the beginning is a little confusing. Once I started to see how it all came together I was in deep. Noa is a strong but also fragile character. She’s made a lot of mistakes which have made her life harder, and continues to make them through the book. I felt for her over and over again but also found myself frequently getting frustrated. She’s not a clear cut strong or independent woman. She makes decisions often based on her strong emotions rather than anything else. Sometimes this works in her favor but other times it leads to more problems. Astrid is more of the standard strong female character I’ve come to expect but often she uses her strength as a wall to keep people out. I loved getting to know her more through time, especially in relation to Peter. The support cast for this book isn’t as built up as it could have been but this gave more focus to the main characters. I’d have liked to know more about the rest of the circus members but admit this might have taken away from the story and been distracting.
I appreciated the premise of this book, I’m drawn to books related to the holocaust. While it’s an always present theme in the story, this is much more character driven and doesn’t focus on the ongoing war. Instead, it’s almost entirely about the characters reacting to each other and the various circumstances they find themselves in.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates historical fiction even if the holocaust or WW2 aren’t interests of yours. I will warn you though that the ending really ripped me up emotionally. I rarely cry with books but this one had me reaching for tissues. It would also be a great choice for a book club as there is a lot of deep discussion that could be had through the content.