Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: MIRA (February 21, 2017)
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.
Buy, read, and discuss The Orphan’s Tale:
Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.
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As I was reading this novel, The Orphan’s Tale, one word kept coming back to me: grace. Because this book, this story, is full of grace in every sense of the word.
It has the “there but for the grace of god” moments, but it also has the kind of grace that allows for sacrifices between friends. And then, when you add in the art and artistry both of a young lover who wants to be a painter, and the circus folk who work on wires and trapezes, you have that other, more physical kind of grace – the one that expands into people being graceful.
This story of Noa and Astrid, two very different women whose lives converge and then separate during one of the bleakest parts of human history – World War II – is more than just a novel. It’s a glimpse at a piece of history we don’t often hear about. We know that people “hid” Jews on farms and in attics, and in the music and theatre worlds, but the circus? Most of the stories that involve the circus have little to do with the political climate.
Exploring such a human story from this point of view made a novel that could, in a less talented writer’s hands, have been another us-against-the-Nazi’s tear-jerker into a story that had added depth and life beyond the actual characters. I learned something new, and was compelled to do my own reading outside the novel because I was fascinated.
(I should add that I’ve been fascinated by the circus since forever, so it’s not surprising that this was the element that truly hooked me.)
Aside from that, though, Jenoff writes with a deft hand. Her characters feel like real people, flawed and beautiful in their simple humanity, and her settings, based on real places, are described in enough detail to make you feel as if you are there, stepping through time to see the horror of a train-car full of nameless, crying babies, or the magic of someone sailing through the air on a trapeze.
Jenoff’s lyrical style only adds to the effect. At times it was like looking through a mirror into a past that isn’t necessarily pretty, but is still vivid.
This novel is a must-read for fans of historical fiction, but I’d recommend it to almost anyone who just wants to immerse themselves in a truly compelling story.
Goes well with a cappuccino and a bar of dark chocolate, eaten one tiny shard at a time.
The Orphan’s Tale Excerpt Tour:
Monday, February 6th: The Sassy Bookster
Tuesday, February 7th: Just Commonly
Wednesday, February 8th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, February 9th: Chick Lit Central
Friday, February 10th: Bibliotica
Monday February 13th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tuesday, February 14th: Read Love Blog
Wednesday, February 15th: The Lit Bitch
Thursday, February 16th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy
Friday, February 17th: Books a la Mode
The Orphan’s Tale Review Tour:
Monday, February 20th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, February 20th: Barbara Khan
Tuesday, February 21st: Savvy Verse and Wit
Wednesday, February 22nd: Caryn, The Book Whisperer
Thursday, February 23rd: West Metro Mommy
Friday, February 24th: Reading is My SuperPower
Friday, February 24th: A Bookish Affair
Monday, February 27th: Building Bookshelves
Monday, February 27th: Just Commonly
Tuesday, February 28th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, March 1st: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, March 1st: Susan Peterson
Thursday, March 2nd: A Literary Vacation
Friday, March 3rd: Cindy Burnett
Monday, March 6th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Monday, March 6th: Literary Quicksand
Tuesday, March 7th: The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, March 8th: The Romance Dish
Thursday, March 9th: Just One More Chapter
Friday, March 10th: Suzy Approved
Monday, March 13th: Reading Reality
Monday, March 13th: Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, March 14th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, March 15th: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, March 16th: The Maiden’s Court
Friday, March 17th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, March 20th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, March 21st: Write Read Life
Wednesday, March 22nd: 100 Pages a Day
Thursday, March 23rd: Silver’s Reviews
Friday, March 24th: Not in Jersey
Friday March 24th: SJ2B House of Books
Tuesday, March 28th: Travelling Birdy