The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
There is one image in this book that will break your heart and that is the image of the train. There are thousands of books about the impact of World War II on civilians, soldiers, and Jews and generally, I learn something new with each one I read. But this one. This one was different. This one put an image in my mind that I never thought of before.
The story is told through Noa, a young girl who was banished from her family when she got pregnant with a German soldier. Her child was taken from her when she delivered but she couldn’t go home. To survive, she lived in and cleaned a train station. I’m not going to tell you about that part. It’s important to the story. It’s the reason for the story.
Noa escapes to a German circus and in order to be hidden and survive there, she must learn the trapeze. Astrid is already the lead trapeze artist and isn’t too keen on having to teach someone in two weeks what she has learned over her entire life. But if Noa is to be able to be hidden, she must earn her keep and fool anyone looking for Jews.
Because Noa takes her role seriously and was a gymnast in her other life, she does manage to learn and conquer her fear so far above ground and earns Astrid’s respect. The two become friends and their lives become each others.
Really, I didn’t realize that entertainments like circuses were still viable during the war in Europe. It wasn’t easy to survive and many didn’t, but they did exist. And I’ll not get that image of the train out of my head anytime soon. Read this one.