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The Circus Train

A sweeping and breath-taking historical debut, The Circus Train will take you on a magical journey across Europe and immerse you in an epic romance spanning three decades. Set against the glamorous backdrop of a bygone era, one filled with sparkle, enchantment, illusion and deceit, The Circus Train is perfect for fans of The Night Circus and The Time Travelers’ Wife.

Sphere/ Hachette
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Amita Parikh


Apple: 2022’s Most Anticipated
Kobo: Best Audiobooks March 2022
Selected for CBC Books spring reading list: ‘50 great books to read this season’, May 2022

Two lives collide in a world of secrets.
But one secret greater than them all.
Is about to tear them apart . . .

At the World of Wonders, Europe’s most magnificent travelling circus, every moment is full of magic, and nothing is as it seems-especially for the people who put on the show.

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 yearns for the real-world magic of science and medicine, despite her father’s overprotection and the limitations of her wheelchair. 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 II 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.

A must-read for fans of The Night Circus and Water for Elephants, The Circus Train will take readers on a heart-wrenching and spectacular two-decade journey across Europe. When all is lost, how do you find the courage to keep moving forward?


‘The Circus Train is a lush, luminous story of outsiders, those disadvantaged by accidents of birth or menacing political regimes. Amita Parikh’s prose shimmers; get ready to be immersed in its rich textures and breathtaking illusions – fire jugglers, mermaid-acrobats, and more. But the real magic is human connection, a sense of belonging, self-fulfillment. I cheered until the final page for Parikh’s characters who strive to beat the odds in a world of turmoil, characters drawn with great love by their creator, in this novel so generous in scope and heart.’
Jeanette Lynes, Author of The Small Things That End the World

‘A spellbinding tale of illusions, family secrets, courage, and devotion, as a circus train tours European cities under threat of war and persecution. Amita Parikh’s skills as a storyteller will enthrall the reader. In Lena Papadopoulos she has created an irresistible and memorable young heroine.’
Carol Windley, author of Midnight Train to Prague

‘Sit back and enjoy as this magical story transports you through war-torn Europe, demonstrating how family can be found in the most unconventional ways.’
Shilpi Somaya Gowda, author of The Shape of Family

‘The Circus Train is a dazzling and delightful debut. Amita Parikh plunges us into a mesmerizing tale of colourful acts and characters, who must elicit truth from illusion as they face dark forces and seek out their places in a changing world. I thoroughly enjoyed this read.’
Ellen Keith, bestselling author of The Dutch Wife

‘Set against the vivid and original backdrop of a traveling circus in World War II Europe, The Circus Train is the moving story of Lena, a young woman struggling to overcome her physical limitations and find her place in the world. Her life is irreversibly changed by the arrival of Alexandre, the illusionist’s apprentice with secrets of his own. Amita Parikh has written a passionate and gripping tale of unlikely alliances and hidden strengths, and a powerful reminder that to live is not just to survive, but to be seen and known for ourselves.’
Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman With the Blue Star

‘If, like me, you loved The Night Circus, this is for you. A magical, sweeping, and evocative debut.’
Mahi Cheshire, Buzzfeed

‘This is a poignant story of a young woman’s strive for independence, overcoming disability, the atrocities of WWII, and betrayal. Heartbreak, romance and love filter throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed the ending offering hope.’
Glynis Peters, author of The Secret Orphan

‘I fell head and heart into the pages of The Circus Train. The triumphant spirit of the characters shines brightly as they navigate the extravagance of the World of Wonders circus and a challenging historical landscape. This is a book readers will carry with them, in the best of ways, for a long time to come.’
Lorelei Savaryn, author of The Circus of Stolen Dreams and The Edge of In Between

‘Magic, love, destiny, and illusion combine with the glitter of 20th century circus life and the heartbreak of war in The Circus Train, Amita Parikh’s masterful first novel. The story centers around Lena, the extraordinary daughter of a world-renowned illusionist, whose world at first remains small, despite the fact that she lives about a glamorous circus train that crisscrosses Europe. But when a young Jewish refugee with a talent for magic finds his way aboard in the early years of World War II, Lena’s life changes forever as he shows her that she alone holds the key to building a better existence for herself. A powerful tale of hope in the face of tragedy and great love in the face of staggering loss, The Circus Train is an extraordinary debut.’
Kristin Harmel, author of The Book of Lost Names and The Forest of Vanishing Stars

Toronto Star

‘Step on to the Circus Train, and prepare for a fantastical journey back in time, to another world, with vibrant characters that leap from the page. There’s Lena, a young girl with dreams beyond the confines of her wheelchair; Alexandre, a young man running from his troubled past; Theo, Lena’s father and an illusionist with extraordinary skills, and so many more. As the Second World War ravages Europe, the Circus Train offers an escape like no other. But for its performers, life is a challenge, and as the War progresses nothing will ever be the same again. I read The Circus Train in just two sittings, immersed in Lena’s world, fascinated by the historical details that the author cleverly weaves through the plot. Highly recommended if you love historical fiction with a touch of heart-warming and magical romance, or if you crave a huge dose of adventure.’
Louise Morrish

‘I spent a wonder-filled afternoon immersed in The Circus Train. Sweeping and captivating historical fiction.’
Sophie Anderson

‘Utterly absorbing’
Heidi Swain

‘Immersive and intricately plotted, this novel brings to life the precarious, colorful world of circus performance in prewar Europe, where nothing is as it seems, danger lurks around every corner, and success is a matter of confidence, luck, and risk. Lena, Alexandre, and Theo are lovable characters, each backed by three-dimensional backstories that expand and intersect satisfyingly as the novel progresses. . . Parikh has created a carefully researched historical debut whose bighearted, sensitive protagonist makes the reader’s emotional journey well worth it. Lively and richly detailed.’
Kirkus Review