The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5

“There have been circuses from the times of the Romans and Greeks, our traditions centuries old. We had survived the Middle Ages, the Napoleonic Wars, the Great War. We would survive this, too.”

Noa lives above a railroad station after being kicked out of her home at 16 years old for an unplanned pregnancy. Allowing curiosity to guide her, Nao discovers a railroad car full of Jewish infants on its way to a concentration camp. Out of pure instinct, Nao grabs one of the infants and runs until her legs can’t move anymore. Not sure where to go, Nao stumbles across a German circus where the owner and lead aerialist provide she and the baby refuge and help them blend in by training Nao to do the flying trapeze. It provides a great disguise, but even hiding in a German circus may not be enough to keep Nao and the stolen infant from the Nazis’ hands. 

“Why are we so hard on one another? I wonder. Hadn’t the world already given us challenges enough?”

This book provided a new perspective to the events that occurred during World War II in Europe. It is based on true events of a German circus that hid Jews by hiding them among their workers. The circus owner Adolf Althoff hid them for the entirety of the war and not only saved their lives, but provided them with food, work, and shelter. Unfortunately, the railroad car filled with Jewish infants is also based on true events. As many of you may know, the railroad cars making the journey to the concentration camps were dark, dirty, and very cold. Due to this, sadly most infants did not make it to the camps. However, this book is a good reminder that although atrocious things happened during The Holocaust, many people still fought back. If it wasn’t for the resilience of good people, the loss would have been even greater. 

“Though no one speaks of it, I sometimes wonder if we are marching toward extinction with each performance, too busy dancing and flying through the air to see it.”

I really loved the circus element of this book. It reminded me of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen where you get to see how the circus operated. Behind the scenes of the circus in The Orphan’s Tale was especially interesting because it showed how Adolf Althoff hid the Jews right under the Nazis’ noses. Many of the Jewish workers performed right in front of Nazi soldiers who were so entranced by the performance that they didn’t think twice about who the performers were. 

The Orphan’s Tale was a very quick read because it held my attention from start to end. Whether Nao was flying through the sky on the trapeze or hiding with the infant for Nazi searches, there was excitement throughout that made it difficult to put the book down. The ending of the book perfectly wrapped up everything and left me with a full feeling in my chest. I recommend also reading the author’s note at the end of the book as it provides information on the true stories that the book represented.

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