Cover Image: The Circus Train

The Circus Train

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Member Reviews

When I read the first words of this books "May 1929 Thessaloniki, Greece" I knew I was going to love this book.
The first scene gathers Theo, Gia, and baby Lena. Amita Parikh sets a very dense stage: Gia just gave birth to Lena (baby is less than 24 hours old) and upon giving her last breath, Theo promises her that he will keep her secret buried.

Fast-forward 9 years: Lena is in a wheelchair after having suffered from polio. Her dad Theo is an illusionist in a travelling circus called the World of Wonders, and they are living the life. Lena feels lonely because she cannot make friends because of her disability. So, she spends her days reading books. Theo is very protective of her. One day, Lena is hungry and heads to the kitchen area to get herself of piece of cake. There she finds a stranger on the floor, passed out. It's a young boy and he still breathes. She basically saves his life. They become fast friends. That's when the story really kicks in.

I absolutely adored the story, the characters, all the things they all had to go through (especially during WWII) and all the life lessons taught throughout the book. This story was emotionally rich: I enjoyed love, death, rejection, hope, resilience,.. so beautiful! At the end, we finally discover Gia and Theo's secret, and it made me love the characters even more.

Thank you Net Galley and the publisher for this e-ARC in exchange of an honest review.

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“Try or don’t try. The time will pass anyway.” -The Circus Train

"The Circus Train" by Amita Parikh is a captivating coming-of-age novel set against the tumultuous backdrop of World War II. The narrative skillfully unfolds Lena's journey, a brilliant young woman in the circus world facing societal limitations due to her wheelchair. The introduction of Alexandre, an orphan with secrets, adds a layer of complexity. As war escalates, their friendship transforms, weaving a tale of resilience and unexpected bonds. Lena's character is crafted with depth and authenticity, making it impossible not to love her and find her truly inspiring. The novel, marked by emotional nuances, delves into themes of courage and self-belief, creating a compelling and heartfelt read, with a little twist at the end, earning it 3 stars.

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I enjoyed this novel. It had the feeling of the greatest showman without the music. The characters are immediately likable. I enjoyed reading about the friendship that turns into companionship from a few main characters. You kind of end up yearning for the same kind of love and protection the characters provide for one another throughout the storyline. It was a bit long in my opinion. I love the colors of the book cover.

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This is a wonderful read about a European traveling circus set in WWII. Every moment of the circus is filled with wonder although nothing is as it seems. The main character, Lena, feels like she has never found her niche within the circus even though her father is the headlining magician. Although disabled, she yearns to be in the world of science and medicine. The story characters, Lena, her father Theo and young Alexandre are well developed with their own secrets and flaws. The story covers 20 years and travels throughout Europe during this time.

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Completely captivating and beautifully written. The book has such a unique concept and I was hooked from the first page. Bravo! Can’t wait to read more from this author.

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Short synopsis: Set in Europe before the start of WWII, young Lena Papadopoulos who was born with polio and can’t walk, lives with her father on a traveling circus train. One day she finds Alexandre a young Jewish stowaway boy on board, and their friendship blossoms.

My thoughts: This was a mesmerizing story set in the backdrop of a developing war and anti-semitism on the rise. It had some great topics, but my favorite part was watching Lena learn to love herself despite the Rocky hand she was dealt. She persevered through some vert difficult situations and learned to find her own happiness.

I really liked traveling with the circus throughout Europe and seeing little tidbits into some of the culture. I also really liked the behind the scenes look Into the circus and entertainment aspect of the book.

There are definitely some heavy moments sprinkled throughout. But honestly I wouldn’t have appreciated the book as much if we didn’t hear about the struggles faced during the War. So be prepared for some emotional moments.

Read if you love:
- Historical fiction
- Circus acts and illusions
- Found family
- Coming of age

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Things I learned from reading The Circus Train:

Family is not always blood relation…Lena was lucky enough to find a family with the other people in the Circus, Clara who was her tutor and Alexandre.

Even during the toughest times, good things can happen…During WW II, people still fell in love and still had happy moments even with all of the devastation around them.

This is a beautiful coming of age story with WWII as the background. Characters were so lovable that you found yourself involved in the story.

I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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This book had its highs and lows for me. I thought the setting was compelling and generally enjoyed the Night Circus and Water for Elephants which were touted as points of reference for this book. I didn't enjoy this quite as much as those.

To my knowledge, this book is not considered YA but some parts seem a bit... vague? Especially for the time frame of the setting. While ww2 is not the focus of this story, it is when the story takes place so some of the surface level detail felt like an odd choice.

I don't know if its a book i would revisit, but if I came across it in my local library, I would pick it up as a first time reader.

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Thank you so much for the advance copy, but I ended up reading the paperback copy from my local library. I enjoyed how the book started out, telling us a little about polio. The story was beautifully written, but I was just not in the mood for it, so it took me a while. Overall, I enjoyed the story and did audibly gasp a time or two. I think this book is a solid 4 out of 5.

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I absolutely loved this beautifully written historical fiction that I could not put down. This book follows Lena a young girl who suffered a disease as an infant that left her in a wheelchair. Her father who is an illusionist in the circus try’s to take care of Lena the best he can but with world war on the horizon and dismissal of women and people with disabilities doesn’t make it easy. Throughout the multi year journey we see Lena grow up and try to survive the best she can.

I loved this book the writing was so descriptive and beautiful I felt like I was there. I also really enjoyed the characters and was really invested in the romance in this story. I thought this was a different perspective as well from most historical fiction and really enjoyed the circus perspective. I cannot wait to read more from this author in the future. I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishers for a chance to read this book for an honest review.

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Thank you very much for the opportunity to read this book early! I really enjoyed it. I thought the writing was very well done, and the story kept me interested. I believe my students/patrons would also love this book and will be acquiring it for the library!

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Book Review: The Circus Train

In "The Circus Train," a poignant and evocative tale set against the backdrop of a turbulent 1938, readers are taken on a mesmerizing journey through a world of magic, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit. Lena Papadopoulos, the daughter of the circus's extraordinary illusionist, Theo, grapples with her place in a society that underestimates her due to her wheelchair, a result of a childhood battle with polio. Yearning for the magic of science and medicine, Lena's brilliant mind seeks to transcend societal limitations.

The narrative takes a captivating turn when Lena rescues Alexandre, an enigmatic orphan with a mysterious past, sparking a friendship that blossoms into something deeper amidst the escalating chaos of World War II. As they navigate the challenges of life under the shadow of war, Alexandre trains as Theo's apprentice, and their bond deepens. However, fate takes a cruel turn when Theo and Alexandre are imprisoned by the Nazis, compelling Lena to carve her own path in a world unraveling at the seams.

Marie Harte intricately weaves historical elements with heart-wrenching emotions, painting a vivid picture of the harrowing era and the resilience of the human spirit. Lena's journey of self-discovery is both powerful and inspiring, urging readers to confront their doubts and embrace the belief in the extraordinary. The author masterfully captures the complexities of human relationships and the enduring strength of love, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

The characters are beautifully crafted, each possessing depth and nuance that makes them relatable and endearing. Lena, with her determination and unwavering spirit, serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration. Alexandre's mysterious past and unwavering loyalty to Lena tug at the heartstrings, leaving a lasting impression.

"The Circus Train" is a testament to the human capacity for love, courage, and perseverance in the face of adversity. Marie Harte's writing is both tender and evocative, transporting readers to a time of uncertainty, love, and the enduring magic of the human soul. This compelling tale is a must-read for those seeking a story that will resonate long after the last page is turned.

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The Circus Train is the debut novel by Amita Parkikh. Beautifully written, likeable characters. The main protagonist, Lena Papadopolous, spends her childhood traveling through Europe with The World of Wonders Circus with her father, Theo, who is the illusionist with the troupe. Lena is confined to a wheelchair due to polio, loves science and medicine. A orphaned boy, Alexandre, is her only friend and they grow together through the years. WWII is going on and affects the performers as they travel through Europe. This has all the feels of war, love, and perserverence. Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 4 Stars

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This was a beautifully written story with great character development. In a market saturated with World War II fiction, this one stands out as something unique. The cover artwork is gorgeous. And I saw an alternative cover that was somehow even better!

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I really enjoyed this book I'm not sure how I forgot to review it. I love historical fiction especially stories about children and this book made me feel like a time traveler

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What a beautifully written novel. I enjoyed this book from the first page to the last. It held my attention the entire time. I really enjoyed the circus aspect of this book. It added a different spin to the historical fiction genre that I have not read before. I would recommend this book to others.

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Any kind of book that is centered around a Circus is my cup of tea. I also enjoy WW2 novels, so this was the perfect combination for me! The Circus bits added a little bit of "magic" to the story and I loved it. I am so glad I read this book and would recommend it!

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I absolutely love books set in and around the circus, amusement parks, and fairs! I also really enjoy historical fiction so I was so excited to read this one!!
Set in 1938, this story spans 20 years. It follows Lena, a young girl who is the daughter of the extraordinary headlining illusionist, Theo Papadopoulos. Brilliant and curious, Lena yearns for the real-world magic of science and medicine, despite her father's overprotection and the limits her world places on her because she is disabled.
Her unconventional life takes an exciting turn when she rescues Alexandre, an orphan with his own secrets and a mysterious past. Over several years, as their friendship flourishes and Alexandre trains as the illusionist's apprentice, World War Il escalates around them.
When Theo and Alexandre are contracted to work and perform in a model town for Jews set up by the Nazis, Lena becomes separated from everything she knows.
Forced to make her own way, Lena must confront her doubts and dare to believe in the impossible--herself."
I really enjoyed this novel!! The characters were well developed and the story flowed easily and was captivating!! @amita_parikh's writing is absolutely beautiful!
I do wish there was more about the actual circus but overall it is a heartwarming and fantastic book!!
Thank you so much to @netgalley for this ARC!!

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4.5 stars; I was hesitant to jump back into another WW2 historical fiction novel but this ended up being a story I’m glad I read.

The circus element gave the tale just the hint of magic it needed.

Fraught with real life danger of Nazi occupied Europe, this book ended up inspiring hope, strength & courage, and unending determination.

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4.5 Stars Rounded Up

I received an advanced copy of The Circus Train by Amita Parikh from the publisher Penguin Putnam via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What It’s About: Lena Papadopoulos has lived her whole life within the circus as the daughter of the headlining illusionist, Theo, but she has never quite fit in due to being constrained to a wheelchair due to a childhood bout with polio. Brilliant and curious, Lena is eager to learn and educate herself and ultimately pursue medicine, but her father is overprotective of her. When she rescues a boy, Alexandre, her life is forever changed. But as World War II ramps up, the circus traveling through Europe becomes more and more dangerous.

What I Loved: This book is unlike others I have read. These characters touched me. This story has two parts, Lena learning to accept herself and reach her goals, and seeing how the characters surrounding her support her and show her love and respect was just really lovely. Lena and Theo will forever stay in my heart. A father and daughter that are so deeply connected. Lena’s journey to achieve her dreams of being a doctor. The other aspect of this book being set in World War II and I will say this aspect of the book is more unique and I learned something that I never knew. This book has exceptional character development that makes this book compulsively readable.

What I Didn’t Like: The romance in this book is not my favorite, but that’s okay. I also felt that this book wasn’t necessarily deeply set at the circus, when our characters were on the circus train, it felt like we could be anywhere.

Who Should Read It: People who love historical fiction. People who love strong female characters.

Summary: A story of a young woman growing up on a Circus Train in the midst of WW2.

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