Monday, March 6, 2023

Book Review of "The Circus Train" by Amita Parikh

Thinking about picking up January's Book of the Month pick "The Circus Train" by Amita Parikh? Keep reading to check out my thoughts on this World War II circus themed historical fiction novel!

The Circus Train
by Amita Parikh

1938. Lena Papadopoulos has never quite found her place within the circus, even as the daughter of the extraordinary headlining illusionist, Theo. Brilliant and curious, Lena—who uses a wheelchair after a childhood bout with polio—yearns for the real-world magic of science and medicine, her mind stronger than the limitations placed on her by society. Then her unconventional life takes an exciting turn when she rescues Alexandre, an orphan with his own secrets and a mysterious past.

As World War II escalates around them, their friendship blossoms into something deeper while Alexandre trains as the illusionist’s apprentice. But when Theo and Alexandre are arrested and made to perform in a town for Jews set up by the Nazis, Lena is separated from everything she knows. Forced to make her own way, Lena must confront her doubts and dare to believe in the impossible—herself. ( from

Book Review and Discussion of 
"The Circus Train" by Amita Parikh

"The Circus Train" was a two-star read for me throughout the entire book. There wasn't any one moment that made me give it a lower rating, and I powered through only because it is a fairly quick read.  However, the current Goodreads rating is over 4 stars, so my issues with the way it is written may just be a personal preference.

Historically inaccurate with a creative license 

I am coming to realize that historically inaccurate fiction is a personal reading ick for me. The author's note at the end of the novel addresses most of her choices regarding why she changed certain historical elements in "The Circus Train". It might be worth reading that note before reading the novel to see if the changes made make it not worth reading. I love historical fiction, and would rather read the grit of reality, bearing witness to that suffering and honoring the truth of their experience than read an emotionally "safer" depiction. Why read historical fiction if the actual history is removed? So much of the reality of circus train life, the realities of being handicapped, or most horrifically being in a concentration camp were removed that it just felt emotionally empty.

Read like a young adult novel 

Because of the lack of grit and emotional depth, "The Circus Train" felt like reading a young adult novel. I think the knee-jerk is to think of this as an insult, but it is not. I truly love many young adult novels, but they are fundamentally a different reading experience. And I do not like reading adult fiction that comes off as belonging to the young adult genre.

Have you read The Circus Train by Amita Parikh? Comment down below and let me know your thoughts! I'd also love to hear about your favorite historical fiction novel that you felt was especially historically accurate - those are my favorites! Thanks for reading, readers!


  1. Every time the train travels from mainland Europe to England I have to grit my teeth because there was no way in which this could have been possible in the 1940s. The author skips so much detail about the "train" nature of this World of Wonders. There is never a rattle or roll, or rail switch or station mentioned. Just not enough detail. I am hating this book.

  2. Just finished this book for book club. The decision on this book was based on reviews I read from other sources. I wish I had found yours beforehand. The book has no depth, i the only thing I know about the circus is that it was blue with gold threads. The circus is odd and rich and weirdly magical, missed that. Could go on with more, but you have said it beautifully.


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