Monday, February 20, 2017

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

*The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff is available Tuesday, February 21st!*

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff. Mira, 2017. Hardcover. 368 pages.

There is no shortage of World War II-era books roaming about, and I have certainly read my fair share of them. In fact, I used to read so many that I found myself becoming a bit tired of reading books in this particularly period of time and actually stopped for a while. I've recently been sent a few ARCs set in World War II, however — such as The Orphan's Tale — and I felt that it was finally time to jump back into this interesting period.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if this was the best book to start with. The Orphan's Tale is by no means a bad book, but it wasn't really at that good, either. I found the premise intriguing: a young girl, Noa, who is kicked out of her house for becoming pregnant finds herself living on her own, saves a baby from the likely fate of death, and eventually finds refuge at a circus. Once at the circus, she is introduced to Astrid, the lead aerialist and our second main character, and that is the basic setup of this novel. I'm a fan of circus-related stories, so I thought this would certainly be an refreshing setting for a book of that type. 

The problem, however, was that I never felt truly connected to the story. I read about the characters' issues, but I never fully felt them or felt overly attached to them. Noa is surely an interesting young woman, but she was written to be somewhat flat and uninteresting. I also found her frustratingly naive, which was something I couldn't get over. I understand that she might not have been quite as fully aware of the dangers of the current time period as Astrid, but I just don't understand how she could have been nearly as naive and trusting as she was. And I won't say too much in the way of Noa's love interest in case of spoilers, but I felt that that entire storyline was unnecessary and hard to believe. The love interest, Luc, was somehow even more flat as a character than Noa, and I was unable to discern the connection between the two. 

Astrid was slightly more compelling to me, and I found myself more interested in her storyline than in Noa's. She had much more in the sense of street smarts, and I found her story much more compelling overall.

The chemistry between the Astrid and Noa was written well, and I appreciated how they managed to form such a strong bond of friendship, though I will say that the dynamic between the two changed too quickly from enemy to friendly. There just wasn't quite enough development to build up to the forming of their strong friendship. 

The Orphan's Tale is written in alternative first-person narratives told by both Noa and Astrid, and I liked the idea, but there were far too many instances in which I had to double check which narrative I was reading from. Both had a similar voice, and there was not much available to make it possible to tell them apart. 

My last problem was the ending. In general, I like this type of ending in books, as I find it takes strength and leaves a lasting impression. In this case, it felt entirely too abrupt and unfinished, leaving me feeling as though the author just needed to quickly wrap up this story as easily as possible. 

Despite the many flaws I found within The Orphan's Tale, this was still an entertaining story that did keep me reading. I enjoyed seeing another side of those impacted by the Nazis -- I had never even considered how something like a circus would be treated in these circumstances, so I definitely enjoyed that aspect. I would recommend this to those who enjoy World War II novels and want something a little different.

Overall, I am giving The Orphan's Tale three stars.

*I received a physical ARC of The Orphan's Tale in exchange for an honest review courtesy of Mira publishing.*

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