My first fictionalized World War II historical fiction novel of 2018, and boy do I have feelings.
Today’s review is on Pam Jenoff’s The Orphan’s Tale, a novel set in World War II Germany and occupied France that tells a harrowing tale of friendship, heartbreak, and the value of a life.
Want to know my full take of The Orphan’s Tale? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.
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The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
Publisher: Mira Books (February 21, 2018)
Print Length: 353 pages
Audiobook Length: 12 hrs and 57 mins
Narrator: Kyla Garcia
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 pleasantly surprised by this novel.
I went into it, based off of the cover, assuming that at least some point in the novel was to take place in a concentration camp. This is not the case, and in a genre rifled with harrowing stories of survival in the most brutal of conditions, Jenoff was able to show survival in a rather unconventional way, via the traveling circus.
The Orphan’s Tale is a dual perspective novel following Noa and Astrid as they try to survive the trials and tribulations of the Second World War. By learning the flying trapeze, Noa is able to blend in, while protecting a child with dire secrets. By teaching the flying trapeze, Astrid is able to come to terms with who she is and trusting her secret to those closest to her.
Reading the author’s note, you know Jenoff went into this novel with quite a bit of research under her belt. While not entirely a biography, Jenoff does mention The Orphan’s Tale was inspired by real life people, places, and events. This just adds to the mastery that is this book, finding a new way to explore the themes of World War II. Plus, the ending of the novel left me in tears. It was not what I had expected out of a novel expertly crafted as The Orphan’s Tale, and it will certainly be one that sticks with me for a long time.
Reflecting on myself at sixteen, I don’t think I could be nearly as brave as Noa was. To take a Jewish infant from a boxcar, keep said child a secret, and literally throw herself into a craft she knew nothing about takes an immense amount of gusto. While her relationship with the other characters is not always perfect, Jenoff did a superb job in showing growth within this character, making her one of my favourite. Astrid on the other hand had me conflicted. While I understand her reasoning for being standoffish, she continued to be so long after her secret was revealed leaving me a little perturbed as to why she wasn’t given the same development.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
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And those are my thoughts on The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff. Do you have any historical fiction novels that you think I should check out? Leave it as a comment below and help my TBR grow.