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Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff
Publisher: 20 February 2017 by Harlequin Australia - MIRA
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: world war II, historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 crowns


A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan's Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival .

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.

Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

My Thoughts

She shakes her head stubbornly. “I would have been fine.” She considers the circus a shield of armor that somehow makes her immune to the Germans. But it simply isn’t true. “You can’t save everyone, you know.”

There appear to be mixed reactions to this book, however I can undoubtedly state, I enjoyed it. This is a story told from the two main characters points of view - Noa and Astrid - and their tale of working in a circus during WWII in Europe. This is not a biography, however, the premise is really quite interesting as it is loosely based around the research conducted by the author on real events and people from the time (see Epilogue) - with Jewish babies taken from their parents and a circus that would hide and give sanctuary to Jews during the war. This alone, to my mind, makes the book heartfelt and an emotional tale, as to be expected, when involving demonstrations of real courage and instincts of survival during the time of the Nazi persecution. The fact that it takes place in a circus is quite unique.

‘The circus is a great equalizer, though; no matter class or race or background, we are all the same here, judged on our talent.’

The title is somewhat confusing unless you broaden your understanding of the many orphans this sad war produced. This is not just about the Jewish baby, who only ever features on the periphery really. For me, both the lead characters were orphans in their own way, being lost to lose that love them. This is more a tale about friendship during a time of war, and that family can indeed be so much more than those you are related to. The circus is one large family providing a haven and hope; and the friendship between the two female leads - where they are prepared to sacrifice so much for the other - is inspiring.

“I am with you to the end,” she says, voice quavering slightly.”

Dissension comes from those expecting so much more from this tale - the horrors of war, the heartbreak and profound systematic breakdown of society. Instead, what you find here is a tale of love and hope in many ways and personal character interactions whilst living under the stresses of a dictatorial regime in a circus arena. It did hold my interest and I quickly made my way through this book to find out how the cryptic beginning would end, coming full circle.

The Orphan’s Tale is well written, as a good concept is brought to life and would appeal to those looking for a somewhat different approach to this well recorded period in history.

‘I can’t help but wonder where it will all end and where I will be when I can finally stop running at last.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Secret Garden by Katie Fford

Title: A Secret Garden
Author: Katie Fford
Publisher: 23 February 2017 by Random House UK
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, chick lit
My Rating: 3.5 crowns


'What I want to know', said Lorna, 'is what lies behind those ash trees at the back of the garden?

Lorna is a talented gardener and Philly is a plantswoman. Together they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds. They enjoy their jobs and are surrounded by family and friends. But for them both the door to true love remains resolutely closed.

So when Lorna is introduced to Jack at a dinner party and Lucien catches Philly’s eye at the local farmers market, it seems that dreams really can come true and happy endings lie just around the corner.But do they?

Troublesome parents, the unexpected arrival of someone from Lorna's past, and the discovery of an old and secret garden mean their lives are about to become a lot more complicated...

My Thoughts

Cooking and gardening are the central focus of this latest Katie Fford book. You always know what you are up for when you get a Katie Fford book - and I like that. Her writing is always light, sweet and a gentle read - rarely any surprises. So when you are in this kind of reading mood, you know Fford will fit the bill.

Funny old thing, love, Lorna thought, pouring a second glass of wine. It was like a disease. You caught it, and then it went away, or it didn’t. But there was no logic to it. You couldn’t turn it on and off according to the suitability or otherwise of the love object.

With a focus on garden renovations and culinary delights, this book is sure to please many. It’s about taking time and appreciating the little things in life and getting creative. Yes, there are romances involved, and what I particularly liked was the wide age in the characters; from young Philly, to Lorna in her fifties to Grand in his seventies - something for everyone! It takes a light approach to everything and is a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

‘It’s lovely to know that you can fall in love at any time in your life, or at any age.’

I do think, however, that this is not as good as the other Katie Fford books I have read. There is nothing distinctly wrong with it, yet it seems to lack that sparkle that I have found in her previous books. The two main leads love interests appeared as total ‘insta-love’ and therefore there was no real investment in their relationships. Also, the title and blurb will lead you to believe that there is a whole story surrounding a ‘secret garden’ - well if you want to wait until three quarters the way through, you may be rewarded with a taste of it, but certainly and in no way, the main focus of this tale.

Having said that, sometimes you just need something light and ‘fluffy’ (as I like to call it) and if you pick up this book expecting nothing more, then Katie Fforde never fails to deliver. No other pretext is need:

‘What are we celebrating?’
‘Nothing,’ declared Anthea. ‘Life is a pile of horse droppings for you just at the moment. What better reason to drink champagne?’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release