The Orphan's Tale: A Novel

by Pam Jenoff

Book, 2017



Call number




MIRA (2017), Edition: Original, 368 pages


"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."… (more)

Media reviews

The Globe and Mail (Canada) ( press reader)
This is the heartbreaking tale and breathtaking story of 17 year old Noa, who is living in Holland during the Nazi occupation and is ostracized by her after becoming pregnant by a soldier...Noa is a vivid character who shows the true type of of inner strength such horrendous events inspired in real
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people. .......her writing is much of a gift as her public service.
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Hounded by the Nazi menace, the Circus Neuhoff travels to a refuge in occupied France. Both Noa and Astrid find men whom they love and whom they must struggle to save. Through the darkness of war, the circus lights twinkle on, the circus family lives and loves and laughs, all while beautiful
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athletes fly high above the crowd. It may seem a bit too neat and Hallmarkian to some, but Jenoff has written a tribute to the human spirit that soars in the midst of epic despair.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
I will begin by stating that once I started, I couldn't put this book down. I loved it! The setting is WWII with a cast of characters, each who must make very difficult decisions which impact on their lives and those of others.

Different from other books with a WWII setting, this includes a cast of
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circus characters as they travel through war-torn Germany and France, stopping only where the Nazi regime tells them they can set up tent.

The story begins with a young German girl whose family abandons her when they learn of her pregnancy by a Nazi soldier. Ecking out a living at a train station, the lonely girl had her baby but it was immediately taken from her by the German authorities. Longing for her baby and the truth of what happened to him causes her to make a decision to grab a baby in a train car filled with Jewish babies headed East for extermination.

Fleeing in the frozen cold of Germany, baby cradled under her coat, she awakens to find that she and the baby are rescued by a traveling circus. Noa must find a way to earn her keep in order to survive with the baby.

Astrid is a Jew whose family was killed by the Nazi's. She was married to a German soldier who abandoned her when told by Nazi authorities that all soldiers who have Jewish wives, must put them aside. Heartbroken and stubbornly strong, Astrid hooks up with the traveling circus using her skills on the trapeze 40 feet high above the circus tent. Astird's family lost their circus during the war and she is hired by the lone remaining circus.

Teaching Noa to learn acrobatic feats high in the air, both learn to trust each other lest one fall. The backdrop of the circus holds the reader as we learn the cast of different characters trying to keep the circus alive. Bravely, the owner and ring leader, puts his life and those of the circus, by welcoming Astrid and Noa to the family. All too easily the authorities hear of a circus hiding a Jew, Astrid literally takes her life in her hands each time she performs death defying feats in the air while praying that on the ground there are no Nazi's in the crowd waiting to capture her.

Because Noa's stolen baby is Jewish, they also are at great risk. This is a story of the hardship of the war, the power of the Nazi's as the wipe out towns and lives, scattering bodies throughout, but mainly, it is a story of risk taking and of the ability to find friendship and trust in a world that spins out of control.

Thus far, this is the best book I've read this year! Highly recommended with Five Stars!
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LibraryThing member Al-G
An excellent book - very readable with vivid characterizations. Jenoff has researched well, both German practices during WWII as well as circus life. She builds a highly believable fictional world populated by characters that you would really like to meet. It is something of a unique plot: the
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circus binds together Astrid, a Jewish divorcee without a home, Noa, a Dane who has been exiled from her home, and Theo, the orphan baby Noa rescues from the train. Astrid is a seasoned veteran of the circus and Noa a novice, but they not only need the circus to shelter them from the Reich, they also need each other. Their struggles to survive and even thrive amid the backdrop of Nazi Germany and occupied France make a compelling story. The book will grab you and hold you right up to the end, but it is a tearful ending that catches you off guard - as do the tides of war and oppression.
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LibraryThing member KamGeb
The book was OK, not great. It is about a german circus during WWII. The circus is a haven for Jews and other misfits. It didn't seem realistic. None of the characters really moved me. Much of it seemed unrealistic. It wasn't terrible and I did manage to finish the book, but it definitely is not a
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book I would recommend to a friend.
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LibraryThing member BettyTaylor56
The book starts with a 90-year-old woman visiting an exhibit at a museum. The exhibit transports her back to 1944, Europe, in the midst of war.

When Noa’s [parents found out about her pregnancy she was shipped off to a girls’ home until the child was born. Then the child was taken from her and
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she was kicked out of the school and left on her own – with nothing. She finds a job at the train station. But one day she makes a decision that will totally change her life.

Astrid is a Jewess whose German officer husband has been ordered to divorce his wife. She must go, but where. She does not know where her family is. She has no papers.

Both Noa and Astrid find sanctuary in a traveling circus. Astrid, who was from a circus family, is a professional aerialist. It falls on her to train Noa to be in the aerialist performance with her.
Pam Jenoff explains in an author’s note at the end of the book that she became fascinated with the stories of traveling circuses during that time. And it was not unusual for a circus to hide Jews among them.

I normally love Pam Jenoff’s books but this one just did not grab me. It isn’t a bad book. In fact, it is very well written. Her descriptions of circus life was wonderful. But I could not connect with the characters. It was only in the last 100 pages that I really felt strong emotions regarding Astrid’s situation. There were some characters in the circus that could have presented some additional layers to the story. Peter, Astrid’s lover. Herr Neuhoff, the owner of the circus, the man who risked his life hiding Jews. Luc, the mayor’s son, yearning to be a painter. I think there could have been so much more emotion to the story if these characters were more than just devices to move the “Noa and Astrid show” along.

The book is worth reading due to its historical significance. There are lots of Holocaust books out now but this is the only one I have heard of that centers around a circus. The last few chapters finally tugged on my emotions. But I was left feeling somewhat empty as it should have kicked me in the gut and twisted my heart. It isn’t one of her best but still worth reading.
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LibraryThing member seeword
Another WW2 novel--this one follows two female aerialists performing in a German circus in occupied France. One is a German Jew being hidden and protected by the circus. The other is a young Dutch woman who is caring for a Jewish baby she rescued. Well told story of a developing friendship,
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difficult choices, suspense, loss, and a kind of redemption.
Advance review copy.
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LibraryThing member lauriebrown54
There are multiple orphans in this story. Astrid, a Jewish woman whose Nazi husband has been ordered to divorce her, returns to her circus family home to find everyone gone and presumed dead. Noa, a Dutch girl impregnated by a German soldier, is cast out by her family; her baby was taken from her
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by the Germans and she lives by being a custodian at a country railroad station. When she sees a boxcar filled with babies, with no one caring for them and exposed to the cold, she steals one of these parentless children and runs off through the snow. These orphans converge on Herr Neuhoff’s circus. Astrid knows him from her childhood; her family lived next door to the Neuhoff’s home base and she grew up with him. Noa and the baby, who she claims is her brother, Theo, lands with them by accident. To Astrid falls the chore of training Noa to be an aerialist like herself; to avoid questions, everyone in the circus must have a job. Plus, Neuhoff needs another aerialist to work with Astrid on the trapeze. Never mind that Noa has never done any such thing, and is afraid of heights.

After working together for a while, Astrid and Noa grow to respect and even like each other. Astrid has a lover; a Russian clown who does dangerous political satire. Noa also meets someone and falls in love instantly; the son of a small French town mayor who is a collaborator.

They are always in peril; even when safe for a few hours, they are on high alert. They hope to escape Nazi areas, but it’s not to be. False papers protect Astrid and Noa as long as they are not closely examined. But multiple tragedies befall the circus, and hard decisions must be made.

While the plot line of hiding from the Nazis could make this a thriller, it’s really a book about relationships: lovers, parents, friends. These relationships interweave like the net that stretches below the aerialists in the big top, which should catch a falling person but you never know when it will fail.

Astrid and Noa are really the only characters who are fleshed out decently. The others seem rather flat; they fill the space nicely but have no existence outside of the story. I would have liked to have seen more of Peter the goose-stepping clown, and the story would have seemed realer had Noa and Luc spent more time together before falling head over heels in love. But it’s a good, tense story, showing WW 2 from a perspective I’ve not encountered before.
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LibraryThing member Cherylk
If you have never read a book by this author, than you don't know what you are missing out on. Most of the books from this author are written in the WWII era. This is how I first came to discover this author as I am a fan of this era. I have yet to find a book that I didn't like from this author.

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was drawn to this book because of the storyline, the author, and the fact that this book was referenced to Water for Elephants. Another book that I enjoyed reading. This book does live up to its hype. Everything from the era, to the characters, and the circus was amazing.

Herr Neuhoff is the ring master. He is the one that brings everyone together by allowing them to find sanctuary in his circus and become a family. Instantly, I connected with both Astrid and Noa. They may have come from different situations and age differences but they were kindred souls. Although, when I talk about these women, I can't do so without mentioning the men in their lives...Peter, Theo, and Luc. Both women gave their hearts to the men and they accepted them with care. The ending was a wonderful one. The Orphan's Tale will leave you breathless as you are transported back in time with a strong storyline and equally strong characters!
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LibraryThing member Ronrose1
In Germany, 1944, a young naive girl, Noa, has been kicked out of her house by her Dutch father because she has gotten pregnant by a German soldier who was being barracked at their house. Noa can’t believe neither her mother nor her father are willing to forgive her for her mistake. She has never
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been on her own and doesn’t know where to turn. she hears that the German government is willing to take in German fathered babies born out of wedlock. Frightened but not knowing what else to do she goes to the German clinic. She is cared for only as long as it takes to have the child. She is then separated from her baby and the clinic because her baby does not the desired aryan features. Devastated by her loss, she ends up finding a job sweeping the floors of a small out of the way train station for barely enough money to sustain her. She tries to stay out of the public eye as much as possible, but the sounds emanating from a railroad car on the snow covered tracks draws her unerringly to it. Through an opening she sees the bodies of countless babies, some piled on top of others. Not realizes these must be Jewish babies torn from their families. Almost all the babies are without any blankets to help protect them from the freezing cold. Some of the babies are crying, but most are either too weak to cry out or are already dead from lack of nourishment and the killing temperatures. Driven by the guilt over the loss of her own child and a mother’s natural sympathy for any child, she reaches out for the nearest child who still has the strength to cry out. Clutching the child to her breast, she runs aimlessly into the woods to avoid a couple of German guards who are checking the train cars.
The other major character is Astrid, a daughter of a Jewish family, that owned a circus before the war. They traveled throughout Europe before the fighting started, playing before packed audiences. Astrid was an aerialist in the circle. In fact, her entire family performed in the circus. Curiously enough, she left the circus and her families the war was beginning, to marry a German soldier. As the war progressed and the persecution of the Jews increased, her marriage came to a head. The Nazis passed a law to nullify all marriages of German soldiers to Jewish women. Her husband acquiesced without any sign of regret. She was summarily sent packing. She tried to return to her Jewish family and the circus, but there was no sign of them to be found. She would eventually be asked to join a rival circus, which seeing no other options, she reluctantly agreed to do.
After a rocky start these two will find it in themselves to support and help each other find a home in the circus. The book gets a little too schmaltzy towards the end for my taste.
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LibraryThing member feeroberts64
The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff follows Noa, a sixteen year old girl, who's father kicks her out of the house for getting pregnant by a Nazi soldier, and we are given the story from Noa's POV. We are later introduced to Astrid, a trapeze performer with the German circus, and we get the story from
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her POV. The story goes back and forth between the two women's stories, which connect along the way creating a well written, dark and ominous, though thought provoking tale.

Jenoff does an excellent job bringing you into this story. She brings the characters to life, and you can't help but let yourself be taken away.

This story has quite a bit of darkness, which portrays extremely well how life was for someone in these two women's situations during WWII. Jenoff's research adds to the darkness based on true events, which, for me, was very thought provoking. It is an intricate story of love and hate, resentment and acceptance, betrayal, fear, hope, and so much more . It is, by far, one of the best books that I have ever read.

I received this book through NetGalley, and received a copy from Harlequin for an honest review and all opinions are my own.
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LibraryThing member teachlz
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member Staciele
I first became a fan of Pam Jenoff when I read one of her short stories in the compilation, GRAND CENTRAL: Original Stories of Post-War Love and Reunion. She is also known for several other books set during war- time. Her research is impeccable and the desire to share the stories of those who
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suffered and lost or those who saved others during a horrible time in our history makes her one of the much-loved historical fiction authors. With her newest book, ORPHAN TALE, she tells a story of two women, unlikely to ever cross paths that now must rely on each other to survive.

Noa is kicked out of her home at 16 when her Dutch parents find out she is pregnant by a Nazi soldier. The orphanage she lives in takes her baby immediately after birth promising her he’ll be sent to a good family. Lost and alone she works cleaning a train station until fleeing after witnessing something she will never be able to erase from her mind. Astrid is served divorce papers from her German soldier when he is forced to kick her out because she is a Jew. Astrid grew up in the circus but after leaving her family home to get married, she returns to her home overtaken by the Germans and her family gone. She is forced to go to the competing circus to ask for a job and most importantly, to be hidden. After a cold winter night, Noa and Astrid are forced to work together and eventually their lives depend not only on the circus staying alive during the war, but sharing the secrets they’ve hidden from each other.

In one of my favorite writing styles, Jenoff writes the chapters from Noa’s or Astrid’s voice. This format always helps me read faster because I have to know what happens and understand the other character’s perspective. This war-time setting is mostly the circus train and then the fairgrounds where it sets up camp to perform in various villages between Germany and France. We are also given some flashbacks to life before the war for many of the characters offering a glimpse of who they were and what brought them to the circus life. I had no idea the circus would have still been allowed while the travesties of WWII were taking place. Thankfully, many people were saved because of their role in the circus and others were hidden from the Nazi officers and kept safe. The friendships made while depending on the circus created a family for many of them that had nothing else to hold on to.

Even though the stories of these two women are fictional, Jenoff has based them off of true stories she was told and then let her imagination take us on an emotional trip back in time. Jenoff served as a US Diplomat in Poland and her time working with Holocaust survivors profoundly affected her. This is her chance to share their stories so we don’t forget. Every WWII story I read leaves me feeling sad, yet grateful and inspired by those who were willing to sacrifice food, family, and safety to help others in need. These stories offer readers a reminder that even during the most horrible times, there was always a way to find the good in others. But, unfortunately, many places in this novel will rip your heart out as there was so much suffering and tragedy. Jenoff writes a riveting, heartbreaking, and memorable story that is sure to make many top book lists for 2017.

Favorite quote:

"We cannot change who we are.
Sooner or later we will all have to face ourselves."
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LibraryThing member muddyboy
This is a holocaust period piece that centers on two young women. Astrid is Jewish who marries a German officer but they must break up due to Nazi rules. She goes back to a town where her family had a circus but finds her relatives are gone, She joins a German owned circus as an aerialist in the
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same town (undercover). Meanwhile a young Dutch girl (Noa) gets pregnant to a Jew and when the authorities find out the baby is taken away. She comes across a railcar full of Jewish babies and steals one and adopts it. Eventually these two women's lives intersect. A well written book that reads like a movie script.
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LibraryThing member BookDivasReads
Noa Weil is a sixteen-year-old that was forced from home due to a pregnancy. Her child was taken away from her by the Nazis and she's forced to find the only job she can, cleaning at a small out of the way train station. When Noa comes upon a seemingly abandoned train car filled with infants, she's
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horrified as most of these babies are dead...all but one. Noa grabs the infant and runs from the only safety she knows, determined to save this child at all costs. Fortunately for Noa, after collapsing in the snow with the infant, she is found and incorporated into a nearby circus.

Ingrid Klemt Sorrell aka Astrid Sorrell is a former circus aerialist that was married to a German Nazi officer. Her married life was good until the day her husband came home and stated he was divorcing her because she was Jewish. Unsure of what to do, Ingrid returns to her family's home only to find it abandoned. With nowhere else to turn, Ingrid approaches a neighbor and rival circus owner for advice. She quickly becomes Astrid Sorrell, the lead aerialist and trapeze artist for the Neuhoff circus. Over time, Astrid meets and falls in love with a fellow circus performer, Peter Moskowicz. Astrid and Noa are from very different backgrounds and have had very different lives, but both find refuge in the circus. Constantly on guard against Nazis, collaborators, and the SS, Noa and Astrid do all they can to protect one another and their secrets.

Before I go any further, let me just say that I loved The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff. This was an incredibly fast-paced read that kept me enthralled from the first few pages until the very last. The Orphan's Tale is not just a story about two women and their friendship, it's a story about sacrifice, survival, love, and hope. This story was heartwarming as well as heart-wrenching. It takes place during World War II so you know there's going to be drama, tragedy, intrigue, and sadness. Even with all of the despair of the times, Ms. Jenoff imbues this story with an overriding sense of hope. The story is told in the alternating voices and perspectives of Noa and Astrid. The characters are well-developed, the settings are quite realistic, and the story is compelling. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, books about World War II, or just want something a little different to read, then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of The Orphan's Tale to read. This is another must-read fiction recommendation. I look forward to reading more from Pam Jenoff in the future.
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LibraryThing member Dianekeenoy
I didn't know that there were traveling circuses owned by important Jewish families in Europe before WWII. This fascinating book was based on a true story about a German circus that sheltered a family of Jews during the war. There is a lot going on in this book; once you open it, you're going to
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want to keep reading it until finished! I will definitely be hunting Pam Jenoff's other books down to read!
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LibraryThing member Mishker
Noa has been cast out of her parents house at sixteen after becoming pregnant with a Nazi soldier's baby. After the baby is born with a darker complexion than her perfect Aryan features, the baby is taken from her. Noa finds work at a train station where she must watch people come through on their
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way to concentration camps. One winter's day, a boxcar full of babies comes into the station. Most of them are already gone-except one. Noa risks everything in taking a baby that looks so much like the one taken from her. She escapes into the woods where she is found and taken in by a German circus. Herr Neuhoff's circus is struggling during the war, but still performing. He has already taken in Ingrid-now Astrid- a Jewish circus performer who had been cast out by her Nazi husband. Astrid is a trapeze artist and Herr Neuhoff thinks Noa could learn to perform with her so their act can continue. Astrid and Noa have a rocky start, but Noa has found a safe place for herself and the baby, so she is determined to make things work.

I was immediately drawn in by the idea of the circus during World War II. It seems so contradictory, however, was probably a bright spot for many people during this time. Noa and Astrid are both amazing characters that are bases are real stories from the time. Their stories elicited compassion, friendship, joy, and heartbreak as the two women find their places. As Astrid and Noa grow closer, they find more in their similarities than differences and create their own family. Another part of the book that I enjoyed as much as learning about another facet of World War II was the circus lifestyle. I loved learning about the trapeze and Noa's strength made me want to try it out myself. Also, Peter the clown seeming amazing and I wish that I could see his act today. I do wish that the story would have extended more into baby Theo's life, however the epilogue helps the with that. Overall, an engaging, memorable and heartbreaking story about a different aspect of life during World War II.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member SilversReviews
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member Sharn
I've meant to read a Pam Jenoff book for many years - this was my first - and she did not disappoint. I will have to bump her other books to the top of my TBR list.

Good circus story right here... although, you've been warned, it's sad. I'm not sure how to review this one since the synopsis already
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covers so much -almost too much, in my opinion (which is why I rarely read them). The characters were well developed (I'll probably think about them for a while) and the story was good. I will definitely recommend this one.
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LibraryThing member brangwinn
A powerful story of friendship and the courage of regular Germans who found ways of saving Jewish lives during World War II. A Jewish acrobat is “hidden” in a gentile circus during Hitler’s regime, along with a young Dutch girl who has saved a Jewish baby from death. This is a page-turner as
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the reader follows the circus into France and the eventual survival of one friend and the death of the other.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
The familiar theme of the Holocaust is placed into an unfamiliar venue, that of a traveling circus. The novel is loosely based on a true story about a German circus that sheltered a family of Jews during the war. Because the attributes of the characters were reassigned to alternate characters, in
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order to create the story, it really serves only to illustrate the little known part that the circus played during a tragic time in our world history. The novel takes its name from the mode of transportation used by the circus and from a child, one of many, who was left to die in a German transport rail car. Learning of another unspeakable, diabolical act of the Nazis surprised me. No matter how much I think I know, it seems that there is always something new to discover about the heinous evil of the Nazi regime and the awful capacity of human beings to harm one another.
When the novel begins, the reader meets an elderly woman. This woman seems to have given the slip to her caretakers and has escaped from her fairly independent nursing facility in order to travel to a Neuhoff Circus exhibit. The book then moves to a time period decades earlier, during World War II, and focuses on two main characters, both of whom are in trouble. One of the women is an adult, and one is a mere teenager. Both of these women are performing and traveling with the Neuhoff Circus. Both of these women have secrets. Although the Neuhoff circus is a fictitious traveling circus, it is similar to those that once existed in Germany.
Astrid Soller is a Jew whose real name was Ingrid Klemt. Her name was changed in an effort to hide her Jewish identity. Although she was Jewish, she had been married to Erich, a German officer. However, he had summarily divorced her and thrown her out when the Reich gave him orders to do so. When she returned to her family home, she found it occupied by Germans. She sought help from her neighbor, Mr. Neuhoff, who ran a circus. Astrid had come from a circus family like the Neuhoffs, and she was an aerialist. He engaged her to work for his circus, although their families had been rivals.
Noa, was a mere teenager who was thrown out of her home because she had become pregnant after a brief encounter with a German soldier. Her child was taken from her by the Germans, but was refused entrance into the German Lebensborn Progam because of his dark hair and complexion. She worried about his fate and mourned his loss. While on her own, working at a train station, she heard a strange sound. It was the sound of moaning and crying infants. Although she could not rescue her own child, she managed to rescue one child from a railcar that was filled with many infants, all of whom were being systematically murdered, left naked and uncared for, left to die. However, as she tried to escape with the baby, hungry and exhausted, she soon passed out. Both she and the child were discovered by a circus performer, Peter, a clown, who brought them both back to Mr. Neuhoff. Now two more were being hidden and sheltered by the circus owner. Noa was to be trained as an aerialist. From this point on, the story seemed to evolve into a story of a troubled friendship between the two women that was also coupled with their romantic relationships with their respective beaus. This seemed to trivialize the background story of the Holocaust.
Noa was always complaining that she did what she did because she had no choice; she was always sorry for essentially making the same mistake, over and over, and she was always placing them all in danger. She also seemed promiscuous for that time period, although some might interpret her behavior as precocious, as well. Astrid always seemed hurt and angry, never really getting over the pain of her lost family and her lost Nazi husband, even though it was a love that was obviously forbidden and his behavior was reprehensible. She carried a chip on her shoulder and often made cruel remarks to Noa. I expected her, as a Jew being sheltered by a righteous gentile, to be more forgiving of the behavior of anyone she encountered. Astrid developed a close relationship with the clown, Peter. He did not seem fully aware of the dangerous times in which they were living either, or else he simply insisted on tempting fate. With the random inspections and arrests, and the public circus performances, his behavior placed them all in danger as well, when he goose-stepped and mocked the German soldiers in his clown routine.
I did find parts of the story interesting as it presented new information, but the characters never seemed to grow; their dialogue was often pedestrian and their behavior seemed repetitive. I found that I could not get really close to the characters and identify with them. I did not find them or their dialogue very credible or engaging. I thought that the novel’s themes seemed to waffle between idealistic and realistic and seemed far too melodramatic and contrived at times.
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LibraryThing member cburnett5
I love books about World War 2, and The Orphan’s Tale is no exception. Jenoff focuses on the circus, loosely basing her novel on a German circus that sheltered Jews during the war. When I am reading a story such as this where brave individuals participate in the resistance, I am always awed by
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their courage and their ability to know what is right and stand up for that belief. Jenoff masterfully conveys the terror the German officers instilled in everyone around them and highlights the tactics they successfully used to ferret out traitors. I could feel the fear myself as I read her descriptions of the German army as they continually showed up unannounced at all hours of the day and night and even during circus performances, at times ripping parents from their children and separating spouses. When confronted with those situations as I read, I always find it completely horrifying that so many people did not speak up and instead contributed to the atrocities. It is truly hard to fathom.

I also enjoyed learning so much more about the circus in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. I recommend reading The Orphan’s Tale if you like historical fiction. The story centered around events I was unaware of, and I always love learning new facts about World War 2. Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member alekee
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member GrandmaCootie
Powerful, emotional story that will stay with you. As compelling as Schindler’s List. Stories about World War II are always fascinating to me, and The Orphan’s Tale is no exception. Learning about the many varieties of heroes who just had to do what was right no matter the danger warms my
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heart, and has me reaching for the tissues. On the surface The Orphan’s Tale is a story about two very different women and their dangerous journeys, and how fate and circumstance bring them together. But it’s also about love and betrayal and secrets and heartbreak and hope. I couldn’t put it down and I will be thinking about it for a long time to come. Pam Jenoff is a new-to-me author who is now at the top of my TBR list.
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LibraryThing member 66usma
The story involves the developing relationship ( both personal and artistic) between two women, an experienced acrobat and a novice situated in a traveling, German circus during WWII. The novice, who was found in a forest, has just rescued a newborn from a railcar that contained bodies of dying and
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deceased babies headed for elimination. The plot was reasonably interesting and was loosely based on research by the author
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LibraryThing member susan0316
I just finished this book and I am still crying. I am crying over the lives lost during this horrific time in history but I am also crying because this book was so wonderful and so beautifully written.

Noa was kicked out of her house at 16 when she became pregnant by a German soldier and she found a
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job cleaning a railway station. She hears a strange sound and finds a railway car full of babies, some dead and some alive, and she is so upset that she grabs a baby and runs way into the cold and snowy night. She is found by a performer from a nearby circus and offered refuge. To remain undetected, she needs to become one of the circus performers. She is mentored by Ingrid, an aerialist, who is also being sheltered by the circus because she is Jewish. As the two women train together, they become friends and then sisters as they try to remain hidden from the Nazi regime.

The characters in this novel are fantastic and their lives in the circus was very informative. The circus becomes one of the characters and is a microcosm of life during war time in Europe. There are food shortages, frequent identity checks from the local officials and arrests. It's difficult to trust anyone and life is very stressful.

This's is a novel about love and friendship during the harshest of times and shows that family is not just who you are related to but true family is made up of those that you love the most.

I loved this book and predict that it will be one of the major books of the winter.

Thanks to Edelweiss for a copy of this book for a fair and honest review.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
Most of this book takes place in Germany in 1944, with the narration alternating between the first person accounts of Noa and Astrid.

Noa is just 16, and working as a railroad station cleaner after having been kicked out of her home in the Netherlands. She had gotten pregnant by a Nazi soldier, and
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had to give up her baby in a home for unwed mothers, but she still mourns over the lost child. One freezing night at the station she sees a railcar full of Jewish babies, most of whom are dead. But one is not, and she impulsively grabs him and runs away with him. But it is cold and eventually she passes out.

She is rescued by Peter, a clown at the Circus Neuhoff. He and his girlfriend Astrid bring in Noa and the baby, but in order not to arouse suspicion, Noa must learn to be a circus performer. Astrid looks very “Aryan,” but the baby, Theo, is circumcised, and the Nazis must not learn he is Jewish. Astrid, who is a trapeze artist, reluctantly agrees to try to train Noa.

Though the two begin as wary adversaries, they eventually become as close as sisters. But Astrid has secrets of her own, and even Peter has something extra to fear from the Nazis.

Danger closes in, and the tension mounts. Even though the war is almost over, no one knows that yet of course, and it seems increasingly likely all of them might not make it safely to its conclusion.

Evaluation: This story is both heartwarming and terrifying. The author reveals in an Afterword that she based the main elements of the plot on real events from the Nazi era. The story of the circuses at that time is a fascinating one, as is her revelation of this circus’s greatest feat.

As with Jenoff’s previous books, this is one you won’t want to miss.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

368 p.; 8.93 inches


077833063X / 9780778330639
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