I love historical fiction set in the World War II, as it will be a means to display either man’s greatness or man’s monstrosity. It’s the time that reveals the best and worse in people, war, showing who they truly are! I always hope for the best, for the kindness and the bravery and altruism, but many a time I get the ugliness of this world, the greediness, the cheer that some people find in other people’s pain.
Noa is a sixteen year old girl that has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier. She is now living and working in a train station, after her born baby has been taken away from her and she has nowhere to turn. She is the only one of the train station employees that is living there. Everyone else has a home to return too, after the work is done. One day, during work, Noa discovers a boxcar full of infants. The guards that would normally be around cars carrying war prisoners are nowhere to be seen. The infants are left there all alone, some on top of others, only a few of them maybe still breathing. She cannot just leave them there, but she cannot save them all. She makes her mind in a second, snatches one of the babies and flees the scene. She hopes the snow will covers her tracks.
Noa finds unexpected shelter in a German circus. She is afraid of what might happen to her and the baby, especially since the baby is circumcised and there is no way to hide that he’s a Jew. Thankfully, the circus owner is a man of good heart and he will provide her the cover she needs. But she has to train herself on the flying trapeze and become part of the show. It’s the only way she can blend in with the circus folks and pass undetected. Her trainer is the lead aerialist of the circus. Astrid was born in the circus. She has been training on the trapeze since she was four years old. She does not think that Noa can succeed with only six weeks training. That’s the time they have until the first show of the season. But she must!
The trainer to trainee relationship between the two women starts as a rival competition. There is no trust in the beginning but it is being built as time goes by. Without trust, there is no way an aerialist to fly from the trapeze. Given the circumstances they meet each other and the things they have in common, the two women begin to bond and to understand each other more than they could ever imagine. They even confide to each other and this is what brings them closer. A friendship is being born in the middle of the war, between two women that are so different from one another.
It’s not so out of the blue that Noa manages it as an aerialist. She was training on gymnastics before she got pregnant so it all came back to her. She was accustomed to the discipline that is required. She just had to learn how to fly! Given her young age and the fact that her son was taken from her, it comes easily for her to try and save that baby and love it as her own, not giving a lot of thought to the consequences her action would have. Her kindness is one of the values very few people had in those times. Hers and the owner of the circus. He was brave and he was doing all in his power to protect his people! Skepticism was also found in large amounts, especially from those that were in danger. This is also visible in the book, in a way that fits in the story evenly.
I really like this book and I can’t wait to read more Pam Jenoff books!