Monday, January 23, 2017

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

A special thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Canada MIRA for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

The story opens with a 90-year-old woman visiting a museum exhibit that transports her back in time to war-torn Europe in 1944.  

After becoming pregnant by a Nazi solder at sixteen, Noa is forced to give up her baby and shunned by her family.  She lives above a rail station that she cleans in order to earn her keep.  A boxcar with dozens of Jewish infants stops at her station en route to its final destination, a concentration camp.  Noa, in a moment of weakness and thinking of the child she lost, grabs one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.  

Astrid is a Jewish wife of a German officer that has been forced to divorce her.  She has no papers and has lost the whereabouts of her family.  Having grown up in the circus, she is able to fall back on her professional aerialist training and joins a German circus that will keep her secret.
Noa is rescued by a member of the same travelling circus that provided refuge for Astrid fourteen months earlier.  In order to blend in, Noa must learn to be part of the flying trapeze act.  The head aerialist, Astrid, is her teacher and mentor after finding herself demoted to catching the aerialist.  The two women are thrown together–rivals at first, Noa and Astrid form an unlikely pairing and unbreakable bond.

Jenoff’s writing is superb, and she segues between voices/perspectives and time.  Her relationships and struggles are believable with the exception of Noa and Luc.  Their connection seems to have happen too quickly and felt forced.  I didn’t believe that Noa would develop feelings as fast as she did and cause her to act so impulsively.  This is where the book fell apart, Luc was not as developed as the other characters which made Noa’s attraction to him seem contrived.     

Described as Water for Elephants meets The Nightingale, I was hesitant to request this book because both titles so unforgettable.  As I’ve said before, this is often a marketing ploy that leads to disappointment for the reader.  That being said, historical fiction is one of my go-to genres of late and I was intrigued.  This book is a solid 3.5 stars for me, definitely not the same 5 star calibre as either book it claims to be a mash-up of, but a good read nonetheless. 

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