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The Orphan's Tale

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Alternate cover edition for ASIN B01HB9Q7CW

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.

353 pages, Paperback

First published February 21, 2017

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About the author

Pam Jenoff

35 books5,170 followers
Pam is the author of several novels, including her most recent The Woman With The Blue Star, as well as The Lost Girls of Paris and The Orphan's Tale, both instant New York Times bestsellers. Pam was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.

Following her work at the Pentagon, Jenoff moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Jenoff developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.

Having left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Jenoff practiced law at a large firm and in-house for several years. She now teaches law school at Rutgers.

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5 stars
26,854 (32%)
4 stars
36,093 (43%)
3 stars
15,557 (18%)
2 stars
2,847 (3%)
1 star
738 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,146 reviews
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,286 reviews2,204 followers
February 14, 2017

There are notable as well as unsung heroes who protected some Jews from the Holocaust. We know about Oskar Schindler and I most recently learned about Irena Sendler. This is an admirable attempt to capture a story that I knew nothing about - the German circus and how some Jews were hidden as circus performers. I found it interesting because I didn't know about it and uplifting to know there were good people willing to take risks to save their fellow man.

Noa, a 16 year old Dutch girl, makes a mistake, sleeps with a German soldier and loses her family, her baby and the life she knew . An act of courage saving a Jewish baby from a carload of babies on a train, will endear her to you. Astrid, a German Jew from a circus family, falls in love and marries a German soldier, and the outcome is not a good one when she is forced to return home to find her family gone . Enter the German circus owner Herr Neuhoff who will do what he can to save these Astrid, Noa and the baby that she rescued.

I'm not sure why but I had a hard time feeling any connection to the characters and even their connections, relationships and friendships didn't grab me . While it is an important story, it just didn't come together for me with a lot of focus on the romantic relationships. There are so many good reviews for this, so maybe I missed something but stacked up against the Holocaust literature that I have read, this one garners 3 stars for the effort to tell a story based on facts that inspired the author.

I received an advanced copy of this from Mira/Harlequin through NetGalley.
April 11, 2017
I’m somewhere between 3.5 – 4 stars on this book.

I enjoyed this WWII story told through the unique perspective of the traveling circus. I read a lot of Holocaust novels and it always amazes me when I discover a completely different wartime perspective where brave men and women risked their lives to do the ‘right thing’ by hiding Jews knowing it would end with prison, torture or death for themselves if they were caught. It always makes me question myself – would I have been that brave during that time? I can only hope I would have had even a small amount of the bravery of these unsung heroes. I was shocked to learn that the circus sheltered Jews during the Holocaust - circus owners and performers took major risks hiding Jews within their acts and in the backstage staff, knowing they could be searched and found out at any random checkpoint along their travels.

This book started off really strong for me and was a 5 star read until I got about 2/3 of the way through. I had a hard time fully connecting with the characters after that point. I liked the characters and enjoyed their story, but couldn’t quite get to the point of being completely engrossed in their lives and decisions in the latter half of the book. The believability of Noa and Luc’s romance wasn’t there for me. It seemed too fast and convenient. I liked both of their characters, but the writing didn’t fully pull me into their love story. Regardless of this, I still thoroughly enjoyed learning about the traveling circus during the war.

I cried while reading the Author’s Note where she explains the background to her storyline. The fact that the boxcar full of babies, “Unknown Children”, described in the novel is based on a true story is heartbreakingly hard to accept. It is clear that the author, Pam Jenoff, has done an incredible amount of research to create this novel - she weaves fact into this fictional story so seamlessly.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it, although I enjoyed the author’s novel “The Kommandant’s Girl” much more.
Profile Image for RoseMary Achey.
1,357 reviews
February 27, 2017
DEFINITION: a sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions

This book felt like it was written by a novice writer, not a seasoned respected author. It was filled with unnecessary melodrama, incredibly simplistic dialogue and scenarios that were simply not believable. The setting was WWII and a traveling circus attempting to shelter several Jewish individuals. Do we really need extra drama?

Don't believe the hype, this novel is not on par with Water for Elephants or The Nightingale. Not even in the same league.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.3k followers
October 5, 2018
THE ORPHAN’S TALE by PAM JENOFF is an emotional, heartwarming, and heartbreaking Historical Fiction novel bringing together a tale about a traveling circus in Europe during World War II and of the friendship and sorrow of two women aerialist performers from the circus.

I found the circus theme to be quite enlightening, fascinating, and interesting as I haven't read too many books about traveling circuses during this time period. We also learn through The Author’s Note that this story was inspired by real people that the author met during her research for this novel and that the circus was a way to hide some Jewish people to help keep them safe during the Holocaust, although it was not a biography it was purely fiction.

PAM JENOFF delivers an intriguing, fascinating, and beautifully written tale here told in dual points of view of our two main characters, Astrid and Noa. This is a tale about friendship, family, survival, bravery, secrets, and the sacrifices that these two characters faced during their time performing at the circus. Through their stories we see their friendship strengthen which ultimately bonds these two women together.

After finishing a novel like this and reading The Author’s Note it always seems to make the book so much better for me as I really like knowing that the book was inspired by real people and events.

Would recommend!!

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Pam Jenoff, and Harlequin for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book for a fair and honest review.

Review is also written and posted on Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee Reading book blog:
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,744 reviews2,273 followers
January 11, 2023

At the age of 16, Noa is forced to leave the home of her parents, her family, when they notice her belly swelling with child. Unmarried, impregnated by a German soldier, she struggles to find a way to survive. She finds a cleaning job at a train station, which will become a path that changes everything for her.

In her haste to leave this town, which has suddenly become unsafe for her, she runs away into the darkness one night. As she continues to trudge on through the snow, the cold has reached through her skins to her bones, and the snow continues to fall. She needs to find a place to hide, to rest, but there is none to be found. Still, she keeps going, forcing herself to step once more, and once more
again until her body refuses and she and the infant she’s carrying fall into the snow.

Found by one of the performers of a traveling circus, Noa and child have been safely carried back to the base location of the circus, but staying safely with the circus can only be an option if Noa performs as an aerialist, an option to which Astrid is opposed since she will have to train her. Astrid grew up in the circus, was flying on the trapeze as long as she can remember. She knows that to train this girl will require more time than they have, and she immediately resents Noa.
For those that loved The Nightingale and / or Water for Elephants, this is being praised as a blend of the two stories. There are elements of both in this, with Jenoff weaving an emotional, memorable tale of these lives.

When our families have rejected us, or we’ve rejected them, or they’re gone, what substitutes for that connection? Even when we fall in love, join lives together or marry, we are creating our own families, extensions of the ones we were raised in. But in this time, this place, trust isn’t so easy to come by. With Hitler’s Germany everywhere, those whom you trust become your family. Eventually the circus becomes Noa’s family. Eventually she can’t imagine a life without them.

Heartbreaking, yet sweetly memorable.

Pub Date: 21 Feb 2017

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Harlequin / MIRA, Edelweiss and author Pam Jenoff
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,437 reviews1,067 followers
January 21, 2018
Naturally this is another book where apparently my rating/opinion doesn't line up with the popular one.

The plot sounds addictive, and it even involved a circus - hard to go wrong with that. As morbid as the subject is, I enjoy reading historical stories focusing on World War II and the horrible time in human history we must never forget and keep (hopefully) learning from. Told through two main points of view, the ambitious story focuses on one woman who lost a child and reclaimed a new one when she runs into a new future, and another woman who is living in the present, hiding from her past, and refusing to think about the future.

The biggest obstacle for me was the writing style. I have little chemistry with it. While I'm one of those readers who actually prefers introspective first person point of view, I'm not a fan when it's a dual first person point of view because it makes little sense to me. Even if the chapters helpfully declare in big font who the viewpoint will be in each chapter, I still tend to forget when wrapped up in the story. Either do first person point of view only, or do third person.

The second writing issue was it was strangely told in first-person point of view present style. Writing is almost always past style. When it's present like this it gets more of a dramatic feel, but that can also make it feel false and too much like reading a book instead of becoming sucked into it. An exception is the very beginning where the story is opening before a character glimpses into the past.

Plot-wise it wasn't bad, especially since I enjoy circus tales, but there were a lot of unrealistic elements. I doubt she would have been able to nab the baby so easily, although it's possible. With how much Peter had to depend on not getting into trouble, I'm stunned he dared his act later. The money suddenly appearing was a little too good to be true. One main character having a hidden talent as a natural of a rare ability in the circus was stretching it. Another character solving a mystery at the end because of a surprise painting...again, very unlikely. One or two I can accept, but add it all together and it's a little too contrived.

On the plus side, it was unique and not a story I've read before. The circus isn't visited nearly enough in fiction, so combining the hostile elements of world war II with hiding in the circus was a good idea.

Reviewed after getting from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,121 reviews42 followers
June 30, 2022
I really enjoyed this World War II novel with a different setting. I knew nothing of the German traveling circus, nor the fact that it hid Jews amongst its performers during the war. I thought the book did an especially good job of showing how the war impacted not just Jews, but those associated with Jews, and to a lesser extent, all German citizens. A beautiful story of family, friendship, and trust. This is my first novel by this author, but it won't be my last.
March 10, 2017
Noa is a sixteen year old Dutch girl who cleans a German rail station in exchange for food and shelter. She is alone and destitute after being after being disowned by her family. Noa became pregnant by a Nazi soldier during the occupation. She was forced to give up the child for adoption and her parents could not forgive her transgressions. One evening she hears noises coming from a railway car in the station. She finds it filled with Jewish infants, some dead and some clinging to life. Still grieving and in shock from her own loss, she makes an impulsive decision to rescue one baby.

Noa finds refuge with a traveling German circus troupe. She trains to be an aerialist under the supervision of the lead performer, Astrid. Astrid’s family ran a circus prior to the war and she is hiding her Jewish roots. Both women have a difficult time connecting while they guard their precious secrets. Over time their rivalry begins to breakdown and a bond develops.

This book is narrated in the voices of the two main characters. This is an emotional tale of survival and courage during a difficult time in Europe. Although it is not a biography, this story is loosely based on real people and events researched by the author.

Giveaway until 3/12 on my blog https://www.facebook.com/suzyapproved...
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,016 reviews364 followers
November 12, 2021
Two More Rabits in the Holocaust Hat

Here comes another book about WWII — another great job unravelling a bit more of the Holocaust terror and atrocities

It brings together two real events I knew nothing about:

A catle train crowded with anonimous jewish children who have been snatched from their parents, and a traveling circus that harbored Jews

It's about fear, love, courage, miracles and secrets — people like us living a life pushed by circumstances; a life they didn't chose but had to be grateful for ("Thank you so much, God! I’m still alive!").
We know about them, and wonder what would we do in such a terrifying scenary?

Would we stick to the nightmare or would we crash our heads against the wall, whilst praying for a better incarnation, providing both acts could be simultaneously performed?!...

Nothing else to add!

It's a remarkable read!🥰
Profile Image for Liz.
2,031 reviews2,543 followers
July 15, 2019

I’ve owned this audiobook but have put off listening to it for over a year. I was worried it might be too depressing. The good news is that while it touches on depressing topics, it’s got multiple moments of human love, strength and decency. Telling the story of Noa, forced to leave home at 16 when she becomes pregnant by a Nazi soldier, she eventually ends up at a circus. Astrid, the Jewish wife of a Nazi Officer, was forced into a divorce by the Reich and also ends up at the same circus. They each bring secrets. They form an uneasy friendship which continues to be tested.

At times, the story becomes predictable. I preferred the secondary characters, especially Peter and Herr Neuhoff to either of the two women. I found this story decent, but I wasn’t in love with it the way so many others were. I think partially that’s due to my desire to actually learn something from historical fiction which wasn’t the case here. Another reason is that the two female leads never felt truly fleshed out.
The narrators do a great job of portraying Astrid and Noa.

Profile Image for Susanne.
1,159 reviews36.8k followers
March 9, 2017
3.5 Stars.

The Orphan’s Tale is A Story of Two Women in Nazi Germany. One woman is a Jew, who was married to a German SS Officer who divorced her and cast her aside. Her name was Ingrid and prior to her marriage she was an Aerialist in the Circus, thus after being shunned by her husband she goes back to the only life she has ever known, and she takes on the name Astrid, hoping the Nazi’s won’t capture her, or worse. The other woman is a young sixteen year-old, named Noa who after sleeping with a German officer, becomes pregnant and is shunned by her family. Alone, Noa is forced to give up her baby.

Later, Noa passes by a train car, which is full of abandoned babies. In an crazy act of courage, Noa, grabs one of the babies and runs, saving its life. Thereafter, both her and the babies’ lives are threatened due to exhaustion and the cold weather. Peter, a Circus performer, finds them both, and Noa becomes a part of the Circus thanks to Herr Neuhoff, the Circus owner. Noa, then trains to become an Aerialist alongside Astrid, intertwining the lives of Astrid, Noa, and baby Theo forever.

Astrid, constantly fears for her life and has a hard time letting anyone in, though after her divorce, she finds love again with Peter. Astrid is tough, difficult and closed off. Noa is sensitive, naïve, and well, somewhat foolish. After being abandoned by her family and losing everything she knows, Noa longs for acceptance and love and she finds love with Luc, the son of the Mayor, (a Nazi supporter), acceptance in the Circus, and even though their relationship is complicated, she finds a sister in Astrid.

The Orphan’s Tale is a story about two women, Astrid and Noa, and their friendship during a time when there is little hope for survival. While I enjoyed the novel and thought that the characters were well developed, I didn’t truly connect with either Astrid or Noa. This may however, be due to the fact that I listened to an audiobook v. actually reading the novel (and this was my first audiobook which took some getting used to) thus I may have lost a little of the experience and/or enjoyment of the book. There was only one moment, while listening, that I felt “verklempt” (towards the end of the book –which I will not spoil for those who have not read it and/or listened to it as the case may be in this instance) and I wonder if I would have had more of those moments had I actually read v. listened to it. I also found certain parts of the book to be a bit improbable since it was supposed to be “historical fiction” based on Nazi Germany/WW2 though it is clear that the story was more about the friendship between the two women than the actual war itself and how it impacted them and the people around them. All in all, the author, Pam Jenoff did a great job in developing the characters and creating a well-developed story.

Published on Goodreads and Amazon on March 9, 2017.
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,111 reviews2,668 followers
February 12, 2017
Cleaning the tiny German railway station for food and a bed was all sixteen year old Noa was able to do – her Dutch father had disowned her after she told her parents she was pregnant. Then her child was taken; her grief she kept well hidden – it didn’t pay to make the Germans notice, she knew that. But the decision she made on the night she heard noises from the rear car of a nearby train was to change her life forever.

Snatching the baby from the train was a spur-of-the-moment decision; but Noa knew she had to run. If the soldiers found them, the baby would probably die; and her own life would more than likely end. At least this way she would give him a chance. But the snow was thick; the weather freezing – she couldn’t keep going…

Rescued from certain death, Noa woke unsure where she was. But her and Theo’s saviour was a German Circus, currently in their winter quarters. And so it began – Noa learned the trapeze, taught by the circus’ star act, Astrid. But Astrid didn’t want this girl with her – knew she wouldn’t be able to train her in just a matter of weeks to do something most people took a lifetime to learn. As the weeks passed, resentments and secrets between the performers caused problems. And as they began their tour across war torn Europe, Noa and Astrid both wondered if they would be safe – what their future would be…

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff is interesting in that it’s based on two facts the author discovered in her research. The Unknown Children, snatched from their Jewish parents to be sent to the camps, and the Circus’ that would hide and protect Jews during the war. Jenoff has successfully combined the two in my opinion, turning The Orphan’s Tale into a riveting, emotional and heartfelt historical fiction novel which I have no hesitation in recommending highly.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy to read and review.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,016 reviews364 followers
July 12, 2021
Mais Dois Coelhos que Saltam da Cartola do Holocausto

Noa, Noa, que fizeste tu?!...
Enrolaste-te com um Nazi e olha no que deu:
Foste rejeitada pelos teus e nem a criança irás criar!...
Mas, enfim!... Errare humanum est, e o destino lá te compensou -- perdeste um, mas deste logo com outro:
Um bebé judeu que surripiaste duma carruagem pejada deles -- estavam todos amontoados, espraiados num chão coberto de fezes e vomitado, uns mortos e outros quase... e tu não resististe -- num ímpeto impensado, arrebataste um deles e fugiste!
Porém, não escapaste à auto-censura constrangedora, que não deixa impunes tais atos de espontaneidade irrefletida:

-- Como poderei eu cuidar de ti, se nem casa tenho?!

-- E que será de mim, se for apanhada?!

-- NÃO! Não posso ficar contigo!… Vou deixar-te aqui… aqui mesmo nesta vasilha de leite!… É, pequenito!… Que mais posso eu fazer?!...

Podes fazer sim, Noa!
E farás!...
O judeuzinho agora é teu! Integrou o teu caminho naquele instante em que os seus minúsculos olhos negros te fitaram implorando que o levasses! Agarraste-o e já não há volta a dar! A partir de agora serás tu e ele e ele e tu, já que tudo o mais ficou para trás!...
Nada receies! O amor pode muito e é íman de milagres oportunos!...

"A Carruagem dos Órfãos" é mais um romance histórico donde saltam mais dois coelhos da cartola do Holocausto:

O comboio de que vos falo consta no menu das realidades hediondas que caracterizaram este período histórico.
E além dele, iremos conhecer um circo alemão itinerante que albergava judeus e dissidentes...

Nota: perdoem-me os spoilers, mas até nem são de grande monta, pois o que vos conto, encontra-se algures lá pelas primeiras páginas do livro.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,729 reviews6,662 followers
February 26, 2017
It's Oscars weekend, and although it may seem like a superficial way to spend one's time, the awards show has spent the past 89 years recognizing the importance of entertaining the masses through the good times and the bad. This annual event has been held in spite of World War II, The Great Depression, and September 11, 2001 … or maybe the show marched on because of these tragedies. Entertainment provides escape and a needed morale boost during dark times. When you look back at entertainment's history, radio, film, and print are primarily noted. But Pam Jenoff uses The Orphan's Tale to remind us about the traveling circuses that persevered despite hunger, poverty, and war. They provided refreshment for the body and soul in spite of government rationing and the death-defying feats offered the kind of adrenaline rush that created wide-mouth smiles instead of fear.
“The circus is a great equalizer; no matter class or race or background, we are all the same here.”
The Orphan's Tale follows the POV of two women: Noa and Astrid, both circus performers, who had something grave to lose during this time of Jewish persecution. Their role within the circus was a place of safety and solace for them, but they both were willing to sacrifice everything they were for each other and of course for one lonely, circumcised baby boy. To be clear, this story is about these two women, and not the orphaned baby, although he is definitely a present character, so I was a bit confused by this book's title; however, the story came full circle by the end which I appreciated. In a way, I guess these women were both orphans in a sense as well - cast aside by those they loved. My only real complaint/distraction in this story was which is why I gave 4.5 stars (and considered 4). Overall though, in my opinion, The Orphan's Tale was an immensely engaging story that I was very glad to have read. If you have been enjoying the influx of WW2-related historical fiction/women's fiction novels, then be sure to add this gem to your list!

My favorite quote:
“The girls at the home were much the same, sniping and whispering behind each other's backs. Why are we so hard on one another? I wonder. Hadn't the world already given us challenges enough?”
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,130 reviews30.3k followers
February 9, 2017
I received this beautifully written ARC as an unexpected surprise, and what a wonderful surprise it was! Bravery, sacrifice, and a traveling circus, this story of friendship and family during the most difficult of times is highly recommended for fans of WWII fiction. Wow, just wow!
Profile Image for Donna.
3,905 reviews22 followers
March 2, 2017
I can see this book getting great reviews because it really is a sweet story, so for that I will give this an extra star, but overall, this didn’t work for me. I love historical fiction and I love WWII historical fiction, so I was looking forward to this book.

I think I craved more detail and not the kind that describes the color of things. I wanted emotion, dilemma, conflict. While this book had some of that, I wanted more. The author did paint a picture, but I just wasn’t feeling it. The characters and their actions were so predictable and they were all striving for the same thing so there wasn’t much variance there. They were all on their best behavior. While that isn’t a deal breaker, the fact that 99.9 percent of the characters were all in the same boat, made me a little less interested in this.
Profile Image for Crumb.
189 reviews527 followers
July 23, 2017
This was one of the most captivating books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. This was written beautifully. It told the story of a friendship between two women, Noa and Astrid, during World War II. This was not a light or easy read by any means. However, the story was enchanting, in a way. I flew through the pages. I really felt like I actually knew the characters, and I was right there with them. When their heart broke, my heart broke. What they felt, I felt. If you haven't read this, you need to. Especially, if you like historical fiction! This was a haunting, harrowing tale, that stays with you long after you turn the last page.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
1,467 reviews237 followers
March 3, 2017
The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff was a very moving read. Yes a little reminiscent of that powerful book The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, however very different in its own right.

The two women - Astrid a Jewish woman hiding and sheltered in a circus and Noa a younger woman who was cast out from her home in the Netherlands when she became pregnant. When Noa stumbles into the care of the circus the two women forge a special relationship. They were both very strong each in their own way and I really liked them both. While it took them some time to come to an understanding, once they did the bond, the loyalty and trust knew no bounds.

Life in the circus was fascinating. The courage of the circus to keep on going in such hard times, the hard work, the strong links to circus life that Astrid had and her love for and ability with the aerial work all drew me in. She lost her first husband and when she meets another in the circus, his choices certainly put them in danger.

The harsh life that these people lived in, never knowing when the Gestapo would haul them away, the shocking event of a boxcar full of children being transported by the Nazi is horrifying, and yet based on truth that needs to be shared and told.

The story opens with an old woman making her escape from a rest home in the USA and attending a celebration of the circus in Paris lays down the mystery. Who is she? Astrid or Noa? There are clues and false clues and one clue soon became apparent as to whom the person is.

This was a book that once I started to read I couldn't put down. Beautifully written, very emotional and well worth reading.
Profile Image for Ammara Abid.
205 reviews140 followers
June 2, 2017
In the war-scenario brilliantly crafted story on the friendship of Noa & Astrid. And their love for the child Theo. Sacrificing selflessly for one another is the true friendship & that's what they truly depict.
My eyes are filled with tears :'( & my heart with pain. This book is incredibly awesome, painstakingly beautiful & what a brilliant write up. Fast paced, moving, I didn't get bore even a second. My first book related to circus but I feel it, live it, enjoy it fully as an aerialist.
And this book must be featured into a movie. It's an excellent plot and I'm sure a brilliant movie could be made on it.
So here's a superb script producers. Go for it. The writer must think about it. I'm 101% sure a great movie could be made from this 'Orphan's tale'.
Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,055 reviews1,376 followers
July 20, 2020
Noa was thrown out of her parents' home because she had become pregnant to a German soldier but needed to leave after the Germans took her baby. As Noa made her way out of town, she came upon a train of Jewish infants left to die (talk about heartbreaking.)

Noa took one of the babies, couldn't continue because they both were almost frozen, and then collapsed near the circus. The circus members rescued Noa and the baby, but Noa had to perform on the flying trapeze with Astrid to earn her keep.

Even though Noa and Astrid worked together as a team on the flying trapeze, there was tension between them because Noa was terrified of flying especially since she almost fell to her death during practice one day. The tension subsided as Noa tried harder to please Astrid and when Noa found out the reason Astrid hid from the Nazi soldiers.

The first time Astrid immediately and very quickly disappeared when the Nazi soldiers burst into the circus building, Noa knew something was going on.

How did they know she was Jewish? Did someone tell on her? The circus owner kept up a good front and steered the Nazi soldiers from the Jewish performers he was hiding, but it was stressful for all.

THE ORPHAN'S TALE is another beautifully written book by Ms. Jenoff revealing another not well-known fact about WWII. The circus theme was quite interesting. I wasn't aware of traveling circuses during that time, but it seems like the perfect way to help keep​ ​some of the Jewish community safe and hidden during the Holocaust.

​THE ORPHAN'S TALE smoothly flows from Noa's story to Astrid's as we learn about their lives and their secrets that they both are afraid to tell.​ Despite secrets, their friendship strengthens even though there is a thin line that may destroy it.

I truly enjoyed THE ORPHAN'S TALE as I have enjoyed all of Ms. Jenoff's books. Ms. Jenoff has a marvelous way of writing a story based on the unpleasant facts of WWII.

THE ORPHAN'S TALE had a different theme, and I always learn new things about the Holocaust when I read Ms. Jenoff's books.

Ms. Jenoff always does exquisite research. You would think all has been known and written about WWII, but the circus assisting the Jewish people was interesting, enlightening, and wonderful to know how another group helped the Jewish people.

Don't miss reading another heartbreaking but heartwarming book by Ms. Jenoff. 5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review for TLC.
Profile Image for Paul Falk.
Author 9 books128 followers
August 17, 2017
Thanks to Pam Jenoff, I found myself clutched into the arms of Germany during World War II. Not the safest place to be. Flying by the seat of my pants, I landed on a train. Not just any train. A circus train. From there, the author took me on a well-laid-out tour of the Big Top. Circus life. Love. War. It was a moving narrative guaranteed with an ending not to leave your eyes dry.

In Germany, the Reich refused to recognize mixed marriages - Jews and Germans. Astrid, a former circus performer, found herself not alone amongst the many marital lawbreakers. By order of the Führer, she'd been evicted from her loving home by her husband, a Nazi officer. Such unions could no longer be tolerated.

She's now on the run. Being a Jew in Nazi Germany had serious repercussions. She sought refuge with an old friend, Herr Neuhoff - owner of his own circus. Timing had been to her favor. Coincidentally, It just so happened, he was in desperate need of an aerialist. Someone for the flying trapeze. Astrid's specialty. Her reputation preceded her. She was great in the air. Hired on the spot. Luck, so it seemed, was on her side. So far.

While members of the circus had been rehearsing for upcoming performances, a newcomer entered the scene. Sixteen-year-old Noa. A runaway. She came with baggage. A baby. But it wasn't hers. The real mother - unknown. Luckily, a position in the circus was found for her too. Safety in numbers.

The traveling train took the circus to towns throughout Germany and France. Life on the rails had not been easy, especially, for Astrid. A fugitive. A jew. If her identity had become discovered, it would spell her doom and possibly, worse yet, demise of the circus. Herr Neuhoff was taking quite a gamble keeping her on. Others as well. That was the type of man he was. He had a heart of gold. Would that ultimately be his undoing?

In those war-wracked years, circus life was in jeopardy. Times were tight. For most, money was difficult to come by. Everyone had ration cards for food. But the price of admission was worth it if just to take one's mind off the war. Even just for a little while.

The SS, Nazi soldiers and German sympathizers were everywhere. No one could be trusted. If caught, fugitives of Nazi justice were dealt with harshly. There were no courts. Only brutal sentences handed out in the name of twisted justice. How much longer would the circus be able to hide, to survive, under its veil of deceit?
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,294 reviews2,964 followers
November 6, 2018
3.5 stars

The story for this World War 2 historical fiction book was unique and was definitely interesting enough for me to keep turning the pages. However, the writing itself was average and other than towards the end, I just didn't feel much for the characters. So I had this weird reading experience of liking the book but also having this cold, empty feeling inside.

Sixteen-year-old Noa is thrown out of her family home after becoming pregnant with a Nazi soldier's baby. After being forced to give up her baby, she is working in a rail station when she sees a stopped boxcar full of infants who are being sent to a concentration camp. Even though she has nothing, Noa takes one of the babies knowing at least the child has a better shot at survival with her. She soon finds employment with one of the traveling circuses but is terrified that she must learn a flying trapaze act. To make matters worse, the woman who is going to teach her, Astrid, is very clear that she doesn't think Noa belongs there. However, while working together the two form a bond but with the war raging on, their friendship will be put to the test.

After reading the Author's Note, I am glad she decided the story of these traveling circuses in the middle of a war, was one worth telling. It honestly blew my mind that in the midst of the all this destruction and death, these circuses even existed. Very interesting to learn some of the owners were able to hide Jewish people among the other employees in order to protect them. I'm always looking to read something different and hopefully learn a thing or two when reading historical fiction, and this book was definitely a success in that regard.

The main problem I had with the book was the writing style. The plot was excellent but I found the writing to be too simple and matter of fact. Given everything these characters were experiencing, I was shocked that in some ways the story read more like a textbook. I just wanted to feel something and I didn't, or at least not until the last few chapters.

So I guess I would recommend this book to people looking for a unique story in the World War 2 historical fiction genre. If you are looking for an emotional reading experience, in my opinion there are better books out there. Still though, I am glad I read it.
Profile Image for Ashley.
180 reviews16 followers
February 7, 2017
Over the past couple of years I have developed a fondness for historical fiction. I was never a fan of history in school because it seemed to be mostly the memorization of names and dates. I thought it was boring. Historical fiction has allowed me to learn about past events in a fun, exciting, and interesting way. I wish my history teachers had incorporated books into their lesson plans.

The Orphan's Tale is a story set in 1940s Germany and France during World War II. Ever since reading The Nightingale I have found this time and setting to be very intriguing. This book took a unique approach to this period in history by focusing on life in the circus. I was never much of a fan of the circus even though I have never visited one, but books like this as well as The Night Circus and Water for Elephants make me want to go.

The main character development in this story was very good. You get a deep sense of the hurt and pain each of them has had to endure. I do particularly like books that are told from multiple points of view. I think it adds an extra element to the story that would otherwise be missing. It helps you understand actions and reactions from both sides.

This story was well on its way to being rated at least four out of five stars, but the ending really fell flat for me. It almost felt like the author just wanted to be done with it and mashed a bunch of events together. I didn't get the roller coaster of emotions I typically want from historical fiction. Overall, it was a good read.

I would like to thank Pam Jenoff, Harlequin, and NetGalley for providing me with an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Bookphenomena (Micky) .
2,422 reviews384 followers
September 26, 2017
This was a heart-stopping and painful read but there are no regrets in reading it. THE ORPHAN'S TALE broke my heart at the beginning and it didn't stop there. The premise for this story had me searching for the history behind the start of the book; a boxcar of babies on their way to be transported to a concentration camp and a young infant saved. This was based in reality and I can say this book was very well researched and the story throughout felt so tangible.

The two main characters in this book, Noa and Astrid are two women brought together through the rough and barren circumstances of war. They develop that kind of bond that feels like sisterhood. The main story centralises around a circus, such a contrast to war and occupation but this wasn't a joyful, fun life. These two aerialists, learner and mentor, continued in this world just to survive. There was a wonderful cast of characters both in the circus and also along their travels; the character development was superb.

This book provoked such emotion, making the reader really feel the desperation, attachments and loss and hope in 1940s war time Europe. This story was not neatly tied up to make the reader satisfied. Any discomfort or sadness I felt was necessary and right. I don't want to feel my emotions smoothed over for a more comfortable experience, I want to vicariously feel the experiences of these characters cast from real history....and I did.

Pam Jenoff has excelled in her writing, concept, story and character development. This is her best work yet.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Reviewed for Jo&IsaLoveBooks Blog.
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,915 reviews273 followers
December 22, 2017
In 2009 I was first introduced to the work of talented historical fiction novelist Pam Jenoff, who specialises in bringing readers compelling stories from the war years. I was so moved by Jenoff’s World War II based novel The Kommandant’s Girl that ever since her books have been on the auto buy list. This was also the case with Jenoff’s latest novel, another World War II set novel. I think The Orphan’s Tale is Jenoff’s most powerful work to date.

The Orphan’s Tale begins with Noa, the sad story of a young seventeen year old girl who has been cast out of her home for getting herself pregnant to a Nazi soldier. Noa has moved to a German based rail station since the birth her of child, which was taken away from her to be adopted. She now passes her time to make ends meet by cleaning a rail station. One cold day, Noa spies a boxcar at her place of employment and she makes the startling discovery that this boxcar contains precious cargo, infants taken away from their Jewish parents, bound for death at a concentration camp. With the loss of her own baby still fresh in her mind, Noa is compelled to take a huge risk and rescue one of the infants from this cart of death. She flees the scene, trying to avoid detection and is rescued by a travelling circus. In order to create the perfect ruse, Noa becomes a performer in the circus. She is taught the art of the trapeze by the enigmatic Astrid, who is also trying to avoid the glare of the Third Reich. As time goes on, the two women begin to form an unlikely bond but the pressures of their secrets and past lives puts their own mortality, as well as those around them to the ultimate test of survival.

The Orphan’s Tale has been compared to two historical fiction novels I love, Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. The comparisons are justified completely but what I will stress is that The Orphan’s Tale is book that stands on its own two feet. As a long time fan of Jenoff’s writing, I can attest to The Orphan’s Tale being her most poignant work yet.

My interested in this novel peaked when I discovered that The Orphan’s Tale is a historical fiction novel, inspired by real life events. True to her word, Jenoff acknowledges in her epilogue that the premise of this book is based on real life subjects and events of this perilous era. Unfortunately, there was an unknown boxcar of ill-fated infants headed for the death camps. In addition, there were Jewish people who were given sanctuary and a place to hide by the travelling circus acts during the war years. It definitely gives more weight to this emotionally moving tale.

Further appeal to The Orphan’s Tale comes out of the friendship that forms and is strengthened as the book progresses between Noa and Astrid. This once pair of strangers, sceptical of one another and guarded in their relationship, eventually become as close as siblings. Their dual narratives allow the secrets that they both hold to slowly unravel, but Jenoff is careful to withhold this until the final moments of the novel. Following the relationship between Noa and Astrid was tumultuous. At first, the two main narrators of this novel seem unlikely to form a bond, Astrid in particular seemed stand-offish but eventually the two come together. The trust, the deep held secrets that are aired, their complicated love lives and their past histories are what make this book a winner in my eyes.

The placement of a circus at the helm of this novel backdrop wise, gives The Orphan’s Tale a unique and original spin, so that it becomes much more than another tale to come out of the war. The scenes involving Astrid, Noa and the rest of the circus performers were very interesting to read and gave me a firm insight into the operations of a circus and how they had to adapt during the war years. It made for some enlightening reading. I often felt very entertained during the circus scenes, as I visualised the circus performances taking place in my own mind.

There are a number of key themes that run through the veins of this novel, survival and courage first come to my mind when I think of this book. Family and the bonds of friendship that are born through the kind acts of strangers, as well as the self-sacrifice many went through during World War II is important to this book. Jenoff is skilled in her ability to covey the sense of terror, suspense, horror and utter heartbreak that followed this period in history. It is a beautifully rendered tale, in the shadow of such brutal events of a shameful regime.

There is no doubt that the period of World War II has attracted a great deal of material over the decades since its end. Pam Jenoff goes that one step further with her offering, The Orphan’s Tale and presents her audience with a valuable historical fiction novel. This book is very much grounded in a detailed level of research, bringing to light real life events in the format of a compelling fiction novel.
Profile Image for Jennifer Blankfein.
384 reviews654 followers
March 7, 2017
This is a story of two lost souls attempting to survive the War. At sixteen, Noa has already lived a lifetime. She got pregnant by a Nazi soldier, got kicked out of her home, had a baby that was taken from her and was trying to make a living by working in the train station. After coming across a boxcar piled high with Jewish babies she is compelled to rescue one and run away. She calls him Theo and now must find a way to protect him from the Germans. She seeks refuge in the traveling circus where they offer her a job in exchange for room and board.

Astrid, a Jew who grew up performing in the circus, had been married to a German soldier who was ordered by his superiors to get rid of her as the war progressed. Feeling rejected and distraught she returned to her home town but her family was gone. She approached Herr Neuroff the head of the competing circus and he hired her to work, silently agreeing to protect her.

At first, Astrid was not warm and welcoming, but ultimately both girls needed each other. Noa finds love with the son of a Nazi, and Astrid with Peter the political clown in the circus as together they protect and nourish baby Theo and each other while trying to make a life during wartime.

Author, Pam Jenoff, paints the realistic picture of desperation as she shows us how so many people were orphaned, separated from family and committed to making an acceptable life be developing connections, setting goals and being open to falling in love during such desolate and dangerous times. The Orphan’s Tale takes us on a heartbreaking, hopeful, touching and emotional journey; one that is not to be missed.
To see more visit Book Nation by Jen https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com.
Profile Image for Britany.
968 reviews417 followers
August 8, 2017
WWII Historical fiction AND the circus?!!?!?!

That statement alone should've sealed this book as a quick favorite- so many preconceived check boxes marked off my list of qualities. Needless to say, this one didn't quite hit the mark for me.

Noa- a 16 year old gets kicked out of her house for getting pregnant is living in the train station as a cleaner, and stumbles across the most horrific scene in a novel I have ever come across. She suddenly finds herself on the run again and ends up joining the circus! (bet you didn't see that coming!) Enter Astrid- an aerialist that was born to fly. She's Jewish and married to a Nazi solider, enter the war and she is heading back home to try to pick up the pieces of her life that have so quickly blown up. She takes Noa under her critical wing and together they mend each other's broken souls.

I enjoyed the characters immensely and the setting was incredible. I could smell the animal scented hay and see the tent poles being pulled up under the big top. The sequins, and leotards, the elephants and popcorn pieces littering the floor all help polish this image. For me, what took this down was the lack of emotional attachment I felt. So many of the plot points felt rushed which made them unrealistic- to the point where I actually starting rolling my eyes (a la Astrid). It was until the epilogue that my eyes got misty, and with that ending-- how could they NOT? For these reasons I'm falling right down the middle. I appreciated the Author's Note and how she came to tell this story-- it was fascinating.
Profile Image for Melissa.
1,198 reviews
February 6, 2017
I have a confession to make. I am not a fan of the circus. I was not disappointed to hear about Barnum and Bailey ending their 146 year run. However, I’m always interested in reading novels about circuses. I think that started with Water for Elephants and later The Night Circus. So I was glad to hear that Pam Jenoff’s latest novel is also about a circus. Thankfully, the focus is on trapeze acts instead of what happens to animals. However, it also is about a very dark period in history.

The Orphan's Tale is phenomenal from beginning to end. I had a hard time putting it down and was recommending it after I was only a quarter of the way through. It reminds me of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, which was another powerful WWII/Holocaust novel. And it made me want to read The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay (which I’ve added to my five-book pile as a result of reading this novel).

I loved the research that was done and how clearly it came across. Both Noa and Astrid were sympathetic characters, even when they were in a fight. The story has a feeling that is eerily reminiscent of current events. I had no idea about the circuses that were around during WWII, so it was fascinating to learn something new and relevant.

This is a beautifully told novel that you should add to your must-read list for 2017!

Movie casting ideas:
Astrid: Morena Baccarin or Rose Byrne
Noa: Madeleine Arthur or Sophie Turner
Profile Image for Erin.
2,961 reviews485 followers
May 28, 2017
3.5 *wiping away tears * stars.

The show is the thing. As long as we can keep performing, everything will be fine.

Germany 1940's: Noa, a young Dutch teen has been cast from her home after falling pregnant by a Nazi soldier. Hoping that her child can be adopted by a nice Arayan family, Noa enters a home for unwed mothers and eventually gives birth. Soon she is cast from there as well and takes refuge at a train station where one night, Noa stumbles upon a railcar filled with Jewish babies heading to a concentration camp. Noa grabs one of the infants and heads into the night. Soon she takes refuge with a German Circus. It is proposed by the ringmaster that Noa work on the trapizee with the talented Astrid.

Astrid is the daughter of a family of German Jews who were very successful circus performers. Married to a Nazi soldier, Astrid is cast out when the Fuhrer orders all German soldiers to divorce their Jewish wives. Astrid quickly returns to the circus area and over time begins a relationship with a Russian performer named Peter.

Noa and Astrid alternate chapters and detail their early competiveness in the circus that becomes a very unlikely friendship. Pam Jenoff creates a fictionalized account that is drawing some facts from history. It is hard to imagine that amidst the war and the Holocaust that something as ordinary as attending a circus would continue to exist. Truly hard to wrap the brain around it! On the other hand, it is perhaps this type of "normality " that cloaked the true story of what was actually happening.

Once I picked the book up this morning I just couldn't put it down. Having previously read six other books by Pam Jenoff, I can honestly say that is often the case when I read her books. In this book, I really loved the character of Astrid, but Noa grated on my nerves from time to time. I never truly felt that she comphrended the full extent of the danger the entire circus was in especially when they entered Vichy France. I didn't care for the romance that develops between Noa and another character because it seemed unnecessary to everything else that was happening.

Interesting plot but would have liked more grit and build up of atmosphere, less romance.
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