The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
Mira, 2017. Trade paperback, 368 pages.
Unlike previous novels by Jenoff, The Orphan’s Tale is a story of friendship, not romance, set during World War II. It tells the story of Noa, a seventeen year old girl thrown out by her father for becoming pregnant by a German soldier and the woman that helps her, Astrid. Astrid also has her own tale leading her to be on her own. Born into a Jewish circus family, she married a German soldier before Hitler’s rise to power. When the government forces their divorce, Astrid is cast out on her own and returns to her hometown. With her parents gone, a neighbor and ringleader of a different circus takes her in and hides her. When Noa and Astrid’s paths cross, the heart of this story begins.
Over the course of the novel, readers will see the evolving relationship between the two women. Astrid becomes like a mother to Noa and both are connected to Theo, the Jewish child Noa rescued after she is forced to give her baby up for adoption. Astrid resists learning to like Noa at first, but as they train together as aerialists on the trapeze, they learn each other’s secrets. These secrets help to bridge the gap in their backgrounds and together they must face a multitude of experiences, including those with their male counterparts, as they train and the circus travels war-torn Europe.
As with the other books I have read by Jenoff, the characters all have great depth and readers will feel their emotions. There is no doubt that Noa and Astrid had a wide range of feelings from hopelessness to feeling like taking the world on by themselves, situation pending. However, all this said, it was not my favorite Jenoff book. I still prefer her first, The Kommandant’s Girl and I also enjoyed her last book, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach more. It’s no fault of Jenoff’s; I just think the circus setting of most of the book did not mesh with me and what I usually read. As for pacing, Jenoff keeps readers wanting to learn more, thus making it a hard book to put down, especially as Noa and Astrid’s firendship evolves. Of the two books the novel’s summary draws comparisons to, I think that those to enjoyed Sarah Gruen’s Water for Elephants will enjoy this novel.
Do tou think you will read this novel? Have you read any of Jenoff’s other novels? If so, what did you think? Lastly, are you surprised to learn the circus still occured despite the war? This novel was based on a true story.
This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided by the publisher. The novel will be released on February 21, 2017.