"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

13 November 2017

2017 Book Review #33: The Orphan's Tale


This novel is fiction but the author (I have read all of her other novels and they all are fantastic!) got her idea for the story from doing research on real life circumstances revolving around a circus and a train car full of abandoned Jewish babies during WWII in Germany/France.

If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly from the 1940s, then this novel is a must read!


Noa is just 16 years old, Dutch, and pregnant by a Nazi soldier.  Her father throws her out of their home in the Netherlands and she is forced to give up her baby. She ends up living in Germany, above a small train station, and cleaning it to pay for her rent.

One day, Noa discovers an entire boxcar full of Jewish babies.  Some are already dead.  There are dozens of them. Most of them are scantily clothed if at all. And it is winter! They are headed towards a concentration camp.  These babies remind her of the baby she birthed and was forced to give up.  Noa decides to snatch one of the babies...a boy whom she names Theo...and runs away into the snowy night.  He is a newborn.

She finds shelter with a German circus. The Circus owner and ringmaster, Herr Neuhoff welcomes her into the "family".  Circus people treat each other like family.  Noa doesn't plan on staying very long but Herr Neuhoff wants her to learn the flying trapeze so that she can blend in with the other performers and not arouse suspicion from the German soldiers who often come around to investigate.

Astrid, the lead aerialist, is a Jewish woman.  She was raised in her family's circus until she married Erich, a German.  Once the war began, he kicked her out and divorced her.  She ended up in Herr Neuhoff's care as her own family is missing.  She has no idea where her parents and younger brothers are.  Astrid is now in her late 30s and has a relationship with Peter, a Russian performer.  

Astrid is instructed to teach Noa all that she knows about the trapeze.  At first they are rivals but they soon form a very strong emotional bond.  They both have secrets though from their past and neither of them share those secrets until circumstances force them to become brutally honest with one another.

Now it is spring, and the circus is moving to France to perform in the little villages there.  They are often checked by the Nazi soldiers and they all feel like time is running out before Peter, Astrid, and Noa are found out to be not whom they really say they are.  

One evening, Noa meets a French boy named Luc.  His father is the mayor of the village where they have been performing. His father sides with the German soldiers to keep his village safe. Astrid warns Noa that no good can come from a friendship with this boy.

And then one night the unthinkable happens.  Peter is arrested and the big top is on fire!

One person dies.  Who is it??


This book moved me to tears in many places because of the reality of the horrors that faced the Jewish people or even the good Germans who disliked Hitler and all he stood for.  

I learned alot about circus life from this author who clearly put a lot of research into this novel.

The character development is exquisite.  Each chapter is a different voice between Astrid and Noa and the ending had me reaching for the kleenex.

I don't want to give too much away as I don't want to ruin this beautiful story for you.

The main themes seem to be family, (is it only blood relatives that make up a family??), forgiveness, betrayal, abandonment, parenting, love and friendship.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.


Deb said...

Wow - I am going to look for this book for sure. Sounds like a very good story. Have a good week!

Susanne said...

This sounds really good. I just read a really good one too called Night Song-A story of Sacrifice by Tricia Goyer about WWII that was really good.