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The Orphan's Tale: A Novel

The Orphan's Tale: A Novel

4.8 4
by Pam Jenoff

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The Nightingale meets Water for Elephants in this powerful novel of friendship and sacrifice, set in a traveling circus during World War II, by international bestselling author Pam Jenoff.

Seventeen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier during the occupation of her


The Nightingale meets Water for Elephants in this powerful novel of friendship and sacrifice, set in a traveling circus during World War II, by international bestselling author Pam Jenoff.

Seventeen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier during the occupation of her native Holland. Heartbroken over the loss of the baby she was forced to give up for adoption, she lives above a small German rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep.

When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants, unknown children ripped from their parents and headed for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the baby that was taken from her. In a moment that will change the course of her life, she steals one of the babies and flees into the snowy night, where she is rescued by a German circus.

The circus owner offers to teach Noa 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 unlikely friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bestselling author Jenoff (The Kommandant’s Girl) depicts two disparate women thrown together by destiny, each hiding a secret from the Nazi regime. Noa’s Dutch family kicks her out of the house after an affair with a Nazi soldier leaves her pregnant. She gives up the child, but in her new life as a train-station washerwoman, she finds a boxcar full of Jewish infants. She rescues one and flees, nearly freezing to death in a distant forest where she is rescued by a member of the famous German Circus Neuhoff; Noa claims the baby is her brother. Astrid Sorrell (born Ingrid Klemt) is forced to separate from her German officer husband when the Reich forces all Jewish intermarriages to be dissolved. A former star in her now-depleted Jewish family’s circus, she, too, finds refuge with the rival Circus Neuhoff, where her Jewish identity will be hidden, and now her boss forces her to teach the pretty Noa the art of the trapeze. Will Noa be able to perform and keep her baby safe? Will anyone discover Astrid’s true identity? Despite their different backgrounds, they find comfort and trust in each other’s friendship. Against the backdrop of circus life during the war, the author captures the very real terrors faced by both women as they navigate their working and personal relationships and their complicated love lives while striving for normalcy and keeping their secrets safe. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"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, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

"The Orphan's Tale is a compelling and beautifully told story about the power of female friendship, with all its complications." -PopSugar

"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 Taleproves 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

"The Orphan's Tale is a wonderfully compelling story set in Europe under the Nazis, and with a beautiful, complicated friendship between two women at its heart. The story grips from the very first page, and the characters are utterly believable-flawed, yet capable of great generosity and courage, so the darkness of the setting is pierced by shafts of light. And the atmosphere of the circus is entrancing-so vividly evoked that you can smell the animals and feel all the terror and thrill of the flying trapeze." -Margaret Leroy, author of The Soldier's Wife

"The Orphan's Tale begins with the most riveting first chapter I've ever read. With deftness and emotion, Jenoff sets in motion a compelling story of friendship and courage during the Second World War." -Charles Belfoure, author of The Paris Architect and House of Thieves

"A beautiful and heart wrenching novel that weaves the story of two women's fight for survival against incredible odds, The Orphan's Tale gripped me from the first page. Jenoff mesmerizes with her ability to weave in historical detail with a story that explores love, friendship, and the endurance of the human spirit. A marvelous and satisfying read!" -Alyson Richman, bestselling author of The Lost Wife

Library Journal
The author of the internationally best-selling The Kommandant's Girl returns to World War II Germany, where 16-year-old Noa becomes pregnant by a soldier and is compelled to give up both baby and home. Living above a railway station she cleans to pay her bills, she discovers a boxcar full of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp and steals one, joining a traveling circus to cover her tracks. Over-the-top imagination here; with a 300,000-copy first printing.
Kirkus Reviews
A Jewish trapeze artist and a Dutch unwed mother bond, after much aerial practice, as the circus comes to Nazi-occupied France.Ingrid grew up in a Jewish circus family in Darmstadt, Germany. In 1934, she marries Erich, a German officer, and settles in Berlin. In 1942, as the war and Holocaust escalate, Erich is forced to divorce Ingrid. She returns to Darmstadt to find that her family has disappeared. A rival German circus clan, led by its patriarch, Herr Neuhoff, takes her in, giving her a stage name, Astrid, and forged Aryan papers. As she rehearses for the circus' coming French tour, she once again experiences the freedom of an accomplished aerialist, even as her age, late 20s, catches up with her. The point of view shifts (and will alternate throughout) to Noa, a Dutch teenager thrown out by her formerly loving father when she gets pregnant by a German soldier. After leaving the German unwed mothers' home where her infant has been taken away, either for the Reich's Lebensborn adoption program or a worse fate, Noa finds work sweeping a train station. When she comes upon a boxcar full of dead or dying infants, she impulsively grabs one who resembles her own child, later naming him Theo. By chance, Noa and Theo are also rescued by Neuhoff, who offers her refuge in the circus, provided she can learn the trapeze. The tour begins with a stop in Thiers, France. Astrid is still leery of her new apprentice, but Noa catches on quickly and soon must replace Astrid in the act due to the risk that a Nazi spectator might recognize her. Noa falls in love with the mayor's son, Luc, who Astrid suspects is a collaborator. Astrid's Russian lover, Peter, a clown, tempts fate with a goose-stepping satire routine, and soon the circus will afford little protection to anybody. The diction seems too contemporary for the period, and the degree of danger the characters are in is more often summarized than demonstrated. An interesting premise imperfectly executed.

Product Details

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5.70(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant's Girl, 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.

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The Orphan's Tale 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
gaele less than 1 minute ago
Noa is a seventeen year old Dutch girl in the midst of occupation. But when she begins to show signs of her pregnancy by a German soldier, her parents force her out of the house, unwilling to bear her shame. Giving the child up for adoption, and needing to find shelter and support, Noa takes a job as a cleaner at a train station. One night, she investigates a car on a train – and finds it laden with infants some barely surviving. The Germans are transporting the children further up the line to a concentration camp. But, Noa, stil mourning the loss of her own child steals a baby and heads off into the unknown. One choice can change your life, and Noa’s choices have changed her inexorably. Leaving in the cold and snow with the stolen infant could have been the end of Noa’s story, but she is found by a traveling circus performer and brought to safety. With an odd collection of misfit performers, Noa must learn to perform on the trapeze if she is to remain safe within the circus, and to do that she must earn the help of Ingrid under the tutelage of Astrid. For Ingrid is also hiding in plain sight as a Jew in the circus, What emerges is a tense and often harrowing read, beset on by German Soldiers, shortages of food, weather difficulties and a general watchfulness and mistrust from locals, this band of performers have formed bonds that will be tested repeatedly. The circus and the many personalities that make the show work become their own character in the story, dangers of performing never underplayed while the stress of the ever-mobile life weighs on everyone involved. With a support system that she has made through luck and much hard work, the growth of the relationship between Noa and Ingrid is clear and from tentative allies the two soon are friends, then almost sisterly in their concern and care for one another. Secrets can tear failies and bonds apart – but rather emblematic of the time, the secrets held by the players in this story are what bonds them together. A wonderful read that will demand careful consideration as the descriptions are vivid, the emotions viscerally present, and the tension palpable from the start. I received an eArc copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
KarenfromDothan 6 hours ago
Set in WWII Europe, this is the story of two brave women, of an unlikely friendship, loss and survival against all odds. It’s a suspenseful, well crafted story. The chapters alternate between the two main characters, Noa and Astrid. They’re wonderful characters, two vibrant and passionate women, and what a story they tell! At the back of the book there are quite a few extras. They’re all interesting, but I was especially fascinated by the author’s note. In it she reveals what inspired her to write this book. Highly recommend!
IoanaN 1 days ago
It starts with a prologue that ends symmetrically with the epilogue. Astrid is drawn to a museum exhibition presenting two hundred years of circus life. From that moment we learn about her life before the war broke out, about her marriage to a German officer and the end of their marriage, about her life after she joined the circus that saved her life. Mingled with her, we learn about Noa, a young Dutch girl who was shunned away by her family because of her mistakes. She too joins the circus Astrid works at, but with a child in tow, a child who is not her own. Told from a first person perspective, alternating between Astrid and Noa's perspectives, the novel reads very personally, and that is a big plus. The novel doesn't have any heart gripping moments that end badly, it all runs smoothly. However, from the first pages you are breathless as the two women's separate stories are told - there seems at all times something bad about to befall them. The whole novel is a long, heart rending moment. The seriousness of the novel and the curiosity to learn what happens next is what keeps you turning page after page. What was somewhat irking was how the author kept repeating some of the same words and kept pointing to their past hardships and their present and future uncertainties. Remembering the time the story was in, year 1945, it is understandable. It was just something that drew my attention as I read the novel. Maybe because I read it in big chunks at a time, this made it more visible. One thing that always disappoints is when I guess the ending. And make no mistake, I always try to guess the ending. However, this novel did not end as I expected. The Prologue did not give me any hints as who of the two women was speaking. At one point towards the end I was sure I knew how it will end. I was pleasantly surprised when it did not, in fact, end as I anticipated. Another plus for the book! I didn't have very high expectations when I started reading the novel, but every expectation was surpassed in a great way. I learned about the circus life during the Second World War, about the existence of great Jewish circus families, and about the double purpose of large circuses: to entertain and to shelter endangered runaways. I received a free e-book copy of this novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.
MaureenST 1 days ago
This book brings back the realities of war and we are back in Nazi Germany, with a Jewish woman, and an unrelated baby. While the author took liberties with the characters and the story, the fact that it is based on fact, makes me want to cringe, how terrible. The book kept my riveted and I kept page turning to find the answers, who was the betrayer, and yet I don’t know if I found out, and I loved the Epilogue, with a big thank you to the author, who doesn’t like to look down that long road. Interesting place to hide, the circus, and all that goes along with it, and would I like to fly, never! Can’t imagine taking that up at any time during my life, but pretraining, in the form of gymnastics, yes! The author has done a wonderful job bringing this story to life, we can never understand why people did the things that led to the horrible atrocities that were committed, but we sure don’t want to forget. I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Mira, and was not required to give a positive review.
teachlz 1 days ago
I would like to thank the Publishers, HarperCollins, Mira, and Harlequin Enterprises Limited, as well as Pam Jenoff for the Advanced Reader’s Edition of “The Orphan’s Tale” by Pam Jenoff. This has to be one of my favorite Pam Jenoff’s novels. The historical fiction novel takes place during World War Two, and the Holocaust. This is a turbulent and devastating period in history. Pam Jenoff’s description of the isolation and depravity of the towns and villages as well as the attitudes of people during this time period is extraordinary and exceptional. The author has been so ambitious in weaving her tale, there is so much to absorb. One of the main characters, Noa,gets pregnant by a German soldier, and is forced to give up her baby. Noa’s family is intolerant and throws her out, where she is forced to clean near a railway station. Noa discovers a railroad car filled with Jewish babies, some alive, destined to a concentration camp, and decides to take one of the babies. She names him Theo, and is forced to escape in the ice and cold with no papers. Noa winds up in a German Circus. The owner of the Circus, has tried to provide safety for Jewish people, and offers Noa a job. At this time Noa meets Astrid, an acrobat in this circus. Astrid is Jewish, and was part of a Jewish Circus. Astrid is instructed to teach Noa how to do acrobatics. The two of them have a conflicted friendship based on a lack of trust and a need for survival. Astrid does not know where her family is, and is divorced. We do meet a number of complex characters. In my opinion, Pam Jenoff compares the indifference and immorality of people with courageous, caring people who offer hope, faith and love, and are willing to take risks. Kudos to Pam Jenoff for telling an amazing story, and bringing a different perspective to light. I am left with so many provoking thoughts and questions. I highly recommend “The Orphan’s Tale as a wonderful novel of historical fiction genre.