The Circus Train

Putnam. Dec. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780593539989. pap. $17. F
DEBUT Inspired by the Golden Age of Magic, Parikh sets her beguiling novel of illusions and secrets on the rails. The World of Wonders is a travelling circus that features all manners of diverse people with unusual talents—one of them is Theo Papadopoulos, a master illusionist who keeps as many secrets as his acts conceal. His daughter, Lena, has polio. She wheels her chair through the exciting carriages with their eclectic performers, though she’s constantly reminded that she doesn’t quite fit in. When Alexandre, a young Jewish boy, stows away on the train to escape the Nazis, Parikh sets in motion a multilevel story of friendship, love, and survival spanning the World War II era. Parikh’s prose is occasionally heavy on summary and clichés, but her research into circuses, concentration camps, and disability all provide a keen historical realism to her characters and events. Indeed, it is Parikh’s sensitive eye toward the reality of living with polio in the 1930s to 1950s that is the real heart of this romantic tale.
VERDICT For readers who love a good circus, this debut keeps a long story on track, with a few hairpin turns to make it interesting.
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