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Water for Elephants | [Sara Gruen]

Water for Elephants

Why we think it’s a great listen: Some books are meant to be read; others are meant to be heard – Water for Elephants falls into the second group, and is one of the best examples we have of how a powerful performance enhances a great story. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Two narrators weave together strands of a story spanning decades. David LeDoux portrays the lead character in his twenties and John Randolph Jones is the same character 70 years later. Both are excellent, but Jones' rough bass filled my head with the joys and pain felt by the old man, in a way that the voice I hear when I read to myself could never have done. One of the most outstanding audiobooks I've ever heard! —Beth Anderson

Publisher's Summary

An atmospheric tale of life and love in a Depression-era traveling circus.

Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world. Jacob introduces us to Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; to August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and to Rosie, a seemingly untrainable elephant.

Beautifully written, with a luminous sense of time and place, Water for Elephants tells of love in a world in which love's a luxury few can afford.

©2006 Sara Gruen; (P)2006 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award, Adult Fiction, 2007
  • Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, Unabridged, 2007

"Water for Elephants resembles stealth hits like The Giant's House, by Elizabeth McCracken, or The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, books that combine outrageously whimsical premises with crowd-pleasing romanticism. . . . With a showman's expert timing, [Gruen] saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale.” (New York Times Book Review)

"Just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief." (Booklist)

"Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes, and freaks who populate her book." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (14238 )
5 star
 (7981)
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 (4140)
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 (1428)
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 (402)
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 (287)
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4.3 (6643 )
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 (737)
2 star
 (198)
1 star
 (126)
Story
4.5 (6564 )
5 star
 (4276)
4 star
 (1630)
3 star
 (467)
2 star
 (102)
1 star
 (89)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Robert West Monroe, LA, USA 05-09-07
    Robert West Monroe, LA, USA 05-09-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Life is short"

    Really enjoyed the two narrators of different ages. Made all the difference and showed a dimension sometimes missed in a cold reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Sarasota, FL, USA 05-08-07
    Patricia Sarasota, FL, USA 05-08-07 Member Since 2006
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
    Overall
    "Awesome"

    The story was interesting and entertaining; the readers were a real treat to listen to. I don't know which to do first: find another book by the author or find another book read by these gentlemen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Santaquin, UT, USA 05-03-07
    Kim Santaquin, UT, USA 05-03-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Love, Love, Loved It !!"

    I absolutely loved this story!! I couldn't stop listening to it. Trust me, take the time to listen to this story. It's heartwarming, funny, reflective and exciting all rolled into one. I give it TWO THUMBS UP!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Waukesha, WI, USA 05-03-07
    Sarah Waukesha, WI, USA 05-03-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    1
    Overall
    "Very Well Done"

    For me, this book was by far the best download so far. What an awesome, riveting, and addicting story!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly 05-02-07
    Kimberly 05-02-07 Member Since 2007

    Ratings Guide: 5=Loved it; 4=Liked it A Lot; 3=So So; 2=Didn’t like it; 1=No

    HELPFUL VOTES
    28
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    45
    13
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    "Good Though Predictable"

    This story was very captivating. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the depression era circus, the innocence of the public, and the ability of the characters to manipulate them. The absolute power the depression gave the few over the many was compelling.

    The main character was crusty and confused about the present but clear and passionate about his past; much like I imagine it realy is for any person his age and in his situation. The narration was excellent and brought the characters to life. I was very pleased with the ending.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly 05-02-07
    Kimberly 05-02-07 Member Since 2007

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    168
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    211
    103
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    37
    23
    Overall
    "Good Though Predictable"

    This story was very captivating. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the depression era circus, the innocence of the public, and the ability of the characters to manipulate them. The absolute power the depression gave the few over the many was compelling.

    The main character was crusty and confused about the present but clear and passionate about his past; much like I imagine it realy is for any person his age and in his situation. The narration was excellent and brought the characters to life. I was very pleased with the ending.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen 04-26-07
    Stephen 04-26-07 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    22
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "VERY satisfying"

    This book, and this rendition truly deserve the accolades it has received. I can see (or hear) why it is such a "best seller". It is an extremely well written book with the most intricate details carefully inserted. The story flows beautifully between past and present. Highly believable and very well read. I went from sadness to joy as the scenes changed but most definitely ended up very satisfied.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Diamond Bar, CA, USA 04-24-07
    Mark Diamond Bar, CA, USA 04-24-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    245
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    78
    38
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    "Great story - really enjoyed it"

    Really enjoyed this audio. The narration was top notch and the story compelling. I really go into this one. Recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia K New York State, USA 04-24-07
    Cynthia K New York State, USA 04-24-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    104
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    70
    35
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Better than I expected"

    Highs and lows -- this plays with your emotions. The author gives us an interesting glimpse into the life of a circus. I loved the crotchety reflections of the "old" Jacob, but enjoyed the story of the "young" Jacob more. The ending was a happy one, which I was concerned about the whole way through the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carrie Redwood City, CA, United States 04-23-07
    Carrie Redwood City, CA, United States 04-23-07 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "A Must Have Read!"

    This book is one of the best books I've listened to in a long time. There was not a moment where I was bored. It also had me hooked from the moment I started listening. I honestly can't say enough good about it. The narrator really made the story even more real.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 991-1000 of 1143 results PREVIOUS199100101115NEXT
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  • Suzannah
    Nottingham, United Kingdom
    8/16/11
    Overall
    "Water for Elephants"

    Both strangely exotic and nostalgically familiar, this tale of tenderness found in the harsh reality of circus life and enduring love stolen from cruelty is captivating and entrancing. Told through the eyes and voices of an old timer and his younger self, it flips from past to present and back again with ease and manages to bring two stories together with equal strength and interest. A beautiful story that is beautifully read by the narrators.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Fran
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    8/30/11
    Overall
    "wonderful!"

    I listened to this for a second time when I had exhausted my new supply while away.
    And it was just as enthralling as the first listen.

    Brilliantly written and wonderfully read by the two readers.
    I can't recommend it highly enough - one of the best audibles I've listened to.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Kelly
    7/5/11
    Overall
    "A true love story"

    A true love story written to thrive in the 21st Centry, from the charactors to the plot line its well written and addictive.........

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    Swindon, United Kingdom
    11/15/11
    Overall
    "The film does not even get close."

    I could not put this book down.
    I remember exactly where I was when things happened in this book.
    The character of the old man is explored to the fullest extend, this character made the story, and was completely overlooked in the film version.
    Perfect for a holiday, or summer commutes, as I did.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • w
    east horsley, United Kingdom
    11/7/11
    Overall
    "loved it"

    Unusual subject and not one I would normally choose. It made me laugh and cry. Brilliant. Do read it

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Claire
    Yate, United Kingdom
    10/30/11
    Overall
    "Absorbing"

    I wasn't sure if I was going to like this audiobook when I started listening to it as I found the hopping between the current and past a little hard going and the older person's voice difficult to understand at times. But, I'm glad I perservered with it. The story is very original and draws you in. Worth a listen

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • joanna
    Bingham, United Kingdom
    10/2/11
    Overall
    "Wonderfully engaging Big Top Book"

    This book tells the story of a young man thrown into the life of a circus worker after his parents are killed. The wonderful transition between times takes the listening into two very different but equally compelling settings. Brilliant !!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    Twickenham, United Kingdom
    6/30/11
    Overall
    "Great Original Story"

    Great to read an original book for a change. I knew nothing about the american circus trains, and now I do! Takes place during the American Depression. The love story is a bit lame but otherwise a terrific listen.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Annie
    Derby
    10/22/10
    Overall
    "I Loved it!"

    A really enjoyable listen, on a par with 'The Help'. This has been one of those books I couldn't wait to get back to; it was really well structured and well read, I was thoroughly entertained the whole way through. I highly recommend this audiobook.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Madge
    Abergavenny, United Kingdom
    7/18/11
    Overall
    "Enjoyed every single second …."

    It left me wanting more…. I did not want the story to end. I laughed and cried. This is a tale simply told, an account that was both funny & sad, on times illustrating the cruelty inherent in some human beings and the goodness of others. The narration was outstanding, it brought the wonderful characters to life and I could really see them through ‘Jacobs’ eyes. It also made me think about the value we place on our elderly population. Can’t wait to watch the film, hope it lives up to the book.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
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