Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: The Orphan's Tale

Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff
Publisher: 20 February 2017 by Harlequin Australia - MIRA
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: world war II, historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups


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.

My Thoughts

She shakes her head stubbornly. “I would have been fine.” She considers the circus a shield of armor that somehow makes her immune to the Germans. But it simply isn’t true. “You can’t save everyone, you know.”

There appear to be mixed reactions to this book, however I can undoubtedly state, I enjoyed it. This is a story told from the two main characters points of view - Noa and Astrid - and their tale of working in a circus during WWII in Europe. This is not a biography, however, the premise is really quite interesting as it is loosely based around the research conducted by the author on real events and people from the time (see Epilogue) - with Jewish babies taken from their parents and a circus that would hide and give sanctuary to Jews during the war. This alone, to my mind, makes the book heartfelt and an emotional tale, as to be expected, when involving demonstrations of real courage and instincts of survival during the time of the Nazi persecution. The fact that it takes place in a circus is quite unique.

‘The circus is a great equalizer, though; no matter class or race or background, we are all the same here, judged on our talent.’

The title is somewhat confusing unless you broaden your understanding of the many orphans this sad war produced. This is not just about the Jewish baby, who only ever features on the periphery really. For me, both the lead characters were orphans in their own way, being lost to lose that love them. This is more a tale about friendship during a time of war, and that family can indeed be so much more than those you are related to. The circus is one large family providing a haven and hope; and the friendship between the two female leads - where they are prepared to sacrifice so much for the other - is inspiring.

“I am with you to the end,” she says, voice quavering slightly.”

Dissension comes from those expecting so much more from this tale - the horrors of war, the heartbreak and profound systematic breakdown of society. Instead, what you find here is a tale of love and hope in many ways and personal character interactions whilst living under the stresses of a dictatorial regime in a circus arena. It did hold my interest and I quickly made my way through this book to find out how the cryptic beginning would end, coming full circle.

The Orphan’s Tale is well written, as a good concept is brought to life and would appeal to those looking for a somewhat different approach to this well recorded period in history.

‘I can’t help but wonder where it will all end and where I will be when I can finally stop running at last.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

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