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Book Review - The Circus Train

In her impeccably researched debut, which opens in 1938, the Canadian author  Amita Parikh  weaves a hypnotic tale about a circus troupe travelling through Europe on a luxury steam train. Lena Papadopoulos’s father, Theo, is a Greek illusionist with “the showmanship of [Harry] Houdini, the skill of [David] Devant and the intelligence of [Harry] Kellar”. He’s the headline act of the World of Wonders. Having contracted polio as a baby, Lena uses a wheelchair. She is friendless until a French Jewish boy, Alexandre, is discovered unconscious onboard the train. Theo persuades Horace, the circus’s self-serving American owner, to allow Alexandre, an orphan, to stay, promising to school him in the art of illusion. Lena studies hard with a private governess and finds herself increasingly drawn to the world of science and medicine. Together with her doctor, she explores the possibility of regaining mobility in her legs. As her friendship with Alexandre fizzes into something more, the dark clouds