Pub. Date: February 21st, 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.
What Did I Think About the Story?
Please excuse me while I completely gush over The Orphan's Tale! I've read a few books by Pam Jenoff (The Winter Guest, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach) but this newest book has now become my favorite. I will try to organize my thoughts as concisely as possible for this review, but I'm on a kind of reading high at the moment after finishing this so please excuse any rambling.
First off, I cannot think of a more interesting and complicated setting for a novel than a European traveling circus during WWII. Where else would you find such a dichotomy in one setting: the cold, bleak, terror-filled landscape of Nazi occupied Germany and France and the bright, bold, exhilarating circus that washes through to bring excitement and mystery to the people? Pam Jenoff does an exceptional job of bringing both aspects to life and creating a sense of both hopelessness and freedom within the hearts of the characters and the reader. This background also serves as the perfect hiding place for these vagabond characters as they all have things they are hiding or running away from, whether that be literal or figurative, yet they are all front and center when the Big Top opens.
Speaking of characters: it has been quite a while since I've found myself genuinely caring about what happened to the characters in the book I'm reading. My heart ached for not only Noa and Astrid but for Pete, the circus clown with a broken heart, Herr Neuhoff, the circus owner who used every resource he had to keep those in his care safe, and so many more. Each character is remarkably complicated and just as contradictory as the setting. I was particularly drawn to the relationship between Noa and Astrid and watching how each helped the other when they needed it the most even when it put their own lives in danger. And the ending....it is a true testament to the sacrifices one will make for those they love. These characters go through so much, both physically and emotionally, and yet for so many of them it made them seem to fight that much harder and sacrifice that much more for those that are innocent and those they loved.
One aspect I wasn't quite expecting but which I ended up really loving was the time spent developing this circus life that plays such a huge part in the story. Everything surrounding the circus is just so fascinating! Learning about the dedication, skill, and practice it takes to be a performer, the customs and culture, what it takes to physically and logistically move such a large production around...everything is just so intricately presented with all the bright lights, colors, and grit by the capable hands of the author.
The Orphan's Tale is top tier historical fiction. There are so many contradictions within the characters and the setting and these very contradictions are what fleshes it all out so perfectly. It's a beautiful look at the many and varied faces of love and family and the mesmerizing fact that both are not always found where you expect them but forged when people are brought lowest and their real nature shines through. I recommend this book to everyone!
What Did I Think About the Cover?
It is GORGEOUS! It's somewhat stark, but that fits the darker aspects of the story so well. Much of the story takes place in bleak and wintery settings and the boxcar could either be the one where Noa found Theo or one of the cars from the circus train, so it fits the actions within the story very well. It could also represent many of the emotions underlying the characters - loneliness, isolation, depression - so figuratively matches the story as well. Overall it's just a great cover!
My Rating: 5.0/5.0
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for a free copy of The Orphan's Tale in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Please continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the rest of the blog tour!
Praise for The Orphan's Tale
“I read this novel in a headlong rush, transported by the relationship between two vastly different women during World War II: a Jewish circus aerialist and a teenage runaway with a baby. Deftly juggling secrets, lies, treachery, and passion, Pam Jenoff vividly brings to life the agonizing choices and life-or-death consequences for a hardy band of travelers under Nazi occupation.”—Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
“Readers who enjoyed Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants will embrace this novel.”—Library Journal
“In prose that is beautiful, ethereal, and poignant, The Orphan’s Tale is a novel you won’t be able to put down.”—Bustle
“A gripping story about the power of friendship to save and redeem even in the darkest of circumstances, The Orphan’s Tale sheds light on one of the most colorful and inspiring stories of heroism in Nazi Germany. This is a book not to be missed.”—Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife
“Jenoff expertly performs a pirouetting tale worthy of a standing ovation. A circus of hidden Jews, a powerful friendship, The Orphan’s Tale proves that the human spirit defies hate, fear, and gravity with a triumphant ta-da!”—Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children
Buy the Book
About the Author
Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’sGirl, 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.
The Orphan's Tale Excerpt Tour Schedule
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 Schedule
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