Like one of the characters in The Orphan’s Tale: A Novel, I didn’t expect to find myself in a circus during a WWII read.
“…it is hard to believe that such a world still exists even during the war. I might have been less surprised to find myself on the moon,” says Noa after finding refuge in a circus troupe.
Not to be confused with the previously bestselling Orphan Train, especially since the cover of this newer book has a train and instead of a circus, The Orphan Tale by Pam Jenoff is set in WWII Europe.
Noa, cast away by her family for becoming pregnant, rescues another baby boy from a boxcar of Jewish infants headed towards a concentration camp. Then, taken in by a German circus, Noa gets training in the art of trapeze and also finds deep friendship from her mentor Astrid, who has her own secrets and heartaches.
This German circus troupe travels into occupied France by train, living and sleeping in railroad boxcars as it has done for years, but the tour gets progressively worse for the troupe in these dark times.
“Until recently, the circus has been a haven from the war, like being inside a snow globe while the world continues outside. But the walls are thinning.”
The book is historical fiction but inspired by two real stories, of the boxcar of infants and how circus owner Adolf Althoff sheltered Jews during the war. The circus is portrayed as a diverse and accepting community. Althoff said, “We circus people see no difference between races or religions.”
I really enjoyed this book; I’ve heard it will be made into a movie and I can already visualize the imagery of the grand (yet deteriorating) circus set in the gloom of occupied France.
The story and how its beginning and ending is set in present day is reminiscent of The Nightingale. I don’t quite put it on that level, but I do recommend this book to readers looking to lose themselves in a good story. I agree with Christina Baker Kline (author of The Orphan Train) who promotes on this book’s cover, “I read this novel in a headlong rush.”
Reading it nearly completes my Fall-Winter reading list and I will be including the book as part of my WWII reading list, which I hope to be publishing soon.
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