BOOK REVIEW: The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff


Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff
Publication: February 21, 2017
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 369


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SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep. When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.

Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another – or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.


I have never picked up a Pam Jenoff book I did not like. The Orphan Tale is probably my 4th or 5th Jenoff book and I fully intend to read the rest of hers. So full disclosure, I am a fan of her work.

The Orphan Tale actually was a bit different than her other books. This one follows a few girls who are surviving World War II in the circus. And not only in the circus, but in the heart of Germany and France, which was prime Nazi territory. And some were hiding in plain site as the star of the show. This surprised me a little because every story I had read was that Jews tried their best not to be noticed, to stay out of sight and not make a scene. Jenoff always gives me a new perspective on this time and how it could have played out. Let alone the sheer volume of research that would have had to go into writing about this particular view point of the war.

We follow two girls, one a Jew who was married to a Nazi and had to be sent out on her own and went back to her family lineage of being in the circus. The other on her own at a very young age after being outcast from her family home. These two girls had very different paths and I loved how while it could have easily been two separate stories, they were intertwined in so many ways. A big focal point in this book is about family, but not the family we are born with. I felt the bonds grow with the circus folks and how Herr Neuhoff was like a father figure and some people protectors and others empaths. There was a place for everyone in the family.

While this is not my favorite Pam Jenoff book, it was still incredibly good and flowed pretty smooth. However, at the beginning, I was thoroughly confused, which made me not love the story as much. It was not clear, at least to me, for the first few chapters that I was not reading the same person, making the timeline very confusing because of jumping around and the events of what were happening in each line. It wasn’t until a few chapters in that it occurred to me that this was two stories playing out parallel to each other until they merged at a later point. Then I started enjoying the story more.

All in all this story is filled with happy moments, intense, suspenseful moments wondering if people will get caught, and really heart wrenching sad moments. From about 70% in the book onward is just pure suspense and edge of your seat reading. I just loved the ending though and felt Jenoff, while it wasn’t a happily ever after per se, definitely kept us on our toes and wrapped it all up nicely. Pam Jenoff is a definite must read if you love Historical Fiction or want to try to get into it more!

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