A review of THE CIRCUS TRAIN by Amita Parikh.
Happy New Year, readers! Past Januarys were welcomed in with my “Non-Fiction for the New Year” book reviews but this year I’m doing something a little different. That’s because for 2023 my lovely partner gifted me the Book of the Month club! Each month staff at BOTM select five options from a variety of genres for their subscribers to choose from and my choices from those options will be reflected here in my monthly reviews. Next year I might be back to my curated categories but for the calendar ahead I’m excited about this monthly book roulette and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.
Without further ado, this month’s book was THE CIRCUS TRAIN by Amita Parikh. A historical fiction, coming-of-age story that follows — you guessed it — a circus train and its residents traveling around Europe before, during, and after World War II. The lead character, Lena, is wheelchair-bound amidst the World of Wonders circus performers as a result of having polio as a child. But her lonely adolescence is lit up when she meets a young Jewish boy, Alexandre, who joins the circus by becoming an apprentice to Lena’s famous illusionist father, in order to hide from the SS and his past. As the war escalates around them, they find themselves separated, navigating a terrifying landscape of uncertainty, and desperately, courageously holding onto the spark of magic that is Hope.
I was incredibly enchanted by the way Parikh painted the circus world. It was lush, vibrant, and magical, which, in key moments, was put in stark juxtaposition with the political and financial realities outside of the World of Wonders. As entertainers, the circus is granted special travel, security, and economic privileges during the early stages of the war, but as the authoritarian regimes gain power and battle lines become more entrenched, the reader gets to experience the shift in their world. I felt like I got to see an oft-discussed historical time period from a new point-of-view with World War II supporting as a very intentional setting rather than starring as the prime subject matter of the book.
The Circus Train is a beautifully woven story across time about how to bravely step into the future even when all seems lost. It will welcome you in with the breathtaking World of Wonders and then wrap you into a well-researched historical fiction brimming with hope.
Buy it HERE.