We are partaking of a story, THE ORPHAN’S TALE, in which the author wishes the reader to ask the question –“What would I have done?” in these circumstances? Since there are two protagonists who become friends in the course of the story this is particularly challenging.
Jenoff has been interested in this period of time since she worked at the US State Department and several interesting stories crossed her path during her work. One story was about a trainload of small Jewish babies, which was transported across Germany during the war and what happened to these little people. The second story was about a famous Jewish Circus in Germany and a famous German Circus from Germany who toured the war torn, occupied countryside during the war. The German Circus Owner apparently protected and kept hidden a number of the Jewish performers so that they would survive. A third story emerged about the Jewish women who had married German soldiers and officers and what became of them when they had to divorce. Are you interested now?, as these stories are merged in an interesting fictional tale about the war?
Noa is a young 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes pregnant by a German soldier and is expelled from her home. She goes to a home for unwed mothers until the baby is born and the doctors and nurses take her baby from her as the boy is not blond haired and blue eyed. She is told he will be adopted and she finds a job as a cleaner at the local railway station. She steals a baby coming through on a train from a car of dozens of babies. Stumbling into the woods she is rescued by a German Circus owner at winter training. Here she meets Astrid.
Astrid is the daughter of a Jewish family who for centuries has owned a Circus in Europe. She has chosen to marry a young German man who is becoming an officer and she leaves her family and her trapeze artistry. Her husband wishes to become an SS officer and thus divorces Astrid. She cannot find her family yet returns to the winter site to help train the artists in the German Circus. The circus is having a rough go of it financially working around the war and yet still in the spring begins its tour. Lots of hiding and working out and scary circumstances to endure.
As these stories come together the two women create a bond as Astrid teaches Noa and Noa risks for the sake of the baby and for everyone’s future. In such difficult circumstances, it is truly astounding the outcome and the resolution of this story.
THE ORPHAN’S TALE is not a difficult read and I think many, many readers would enjoy the story and learning about the circus trains of another time. The capturing of the prejudice and the thinking of the time by Germans and by the Frenchmen of the countryside played well with the problems of being Jewish and of being in the Circus. They were not gypsies, they were talented, well trained artists.
Another opportunity to look at history within a story and I believe High School students would also enjoy this read and seeing what it takes to “save” people for the future and how to change minds. TLC Book Tours http://tlcbooktours.com/2016/12/pam-jenoff-author-of-the-orphans-tale-on-tour-februarymarch-2017/ sent me this e-book for review and I can highly recommend THE ORPHAN’S TALE.
“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.” (From TLC Books)
“Jenoff expertly performs a pirouetting tale worthy of a standing ovation. A circus of hidden Jews, a powerful friendship, The Orphan’s Tale proves 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”