We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
Call anytime(888) 283-5051
 >   > 
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.
Regular Price:$24.46
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

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 (13271 )
5 star
 (7399)
4 star
 (3890)
3 star
 (1332)
2 star
 (377)
1 star
 (273)
Overall
4.3 (5772 )
5 star
 (3255)
4 star
 (1581)
3 star
 (654)
2 star
 (170)
1 star
 (112)
Story
4.5 (5700 )
5 star
 (3644)
4 star
 (1456)
3 star
 (424)
2 star
 (96)
1 star
 (80)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Mary Cedar Falls, IA, United States 01-06-07
    Mary Cedar Falls, IA, United States 01-06-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    45
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Water for Elephants"

    Couldn't put it down - stayed with this story hour after hour. Takes the listener to a time and place not often visited. Invests the listener in the lives and well-being of its characters. Compelling story - well written, nicely narrated.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    carol linker 01-05-07 Member Since 2003
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "boring"

    I love books on the circus. After the rave reviews I had high expectations. I found the story boring, the narration silly, and the characters one-dimensional. Very disappointing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Miranda Austin, TX, United States 01-01-07
    Miranda Austin, TX, United States 01-01-07 Member Since 2004

    The things I know for sure I am are: Christian, Wife, Mother, Daughter, Granddaughter, Sister, American, Patriot, Friend, Teacher, Student, Seeker, and Thinker. I am far from perfect but I do try to be kind, honest, honorable, trusting and trustworthy. Lover of sunshine, books, southern food, vacations in national parks, singing in my car, cookie dough and icing, and cucumber margaritas.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    44
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    83
    28
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Excellent!"

    I have to give this book 5 giant stars on every level.. plot, characters, narration.

    This is just one of the best choices in books I made in 2006. The book was excellent, but the narration made the book even better! Don't judge this book by its cover. I bypassed it on several occasions because the cover made it look like "not my kind of book", but it is just such a charming and heart warming story. Loved it. Take a chance with this one. You just will fall in love with these characters. Its like they are real. I am sad the book is over...

    Happy listening!
    Mandy

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    txkimmers Austin, TX 12-28-06
    txkimmers Austin, TX 12-28-06 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    121
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    81
    18
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    6
    0
    Overall
    "Really splendid"

    I purchased this based on listener reviews and was not let down. It was one of my favorite listens of 2006--sweet, romantic, funny and exciting. The voice of David LeDoux (young Jacob) reminded me very much of an actor named Jonathan Woodward (from episodes of Buffy and Firefly); for me there is a permanent mental picture of him inserted into the narrative (and in a film version, he would make a wonderful Jacob). John Randolph Jones grabbed my heart even more--he was so perfect in his reading.

    I sent the book to my 93 (yes, 93) year old Grandmother--I only wish she could hear the audio version of the novel and experience it like I did.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    H. Reyes Marshfield, MA United States 12-28-06
    H. Reyes Marshfield, MA United States 12-28-06 Member Since 2006

    very particular

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    34
    1
    Overall
    "The narration enhances an already excellent story"

    Water for Elephants has all the elements of great fiction. It transports a reader to the facinating life of a traveling circus..and at the same time, beautifully and insightfully speaks to the one thing we all have in common one way or another....growing old. But, what really sets this audiobook apart, is the deliciously cantankerous narration of the aging Jacob who brings his chapters alive when juxtaposed to the rest of this wonderful story. His voice growls and gurgles with the richness of a long long life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Derek Union, KY, United States 12-27-06
    Derek Union, KY, United States 12-27-06 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    43
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    61
    22
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Best Read in a Long Time!!"

    Water for Elephants was superbly written and very believably narrated. I completely lost myself in the story as it rippled back and forth over a seventy year time span. Sara Gruen is a new author to keep an eye (or an ear) on. GREAT STORY!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruth Birmingham, N/A, United Kingdom 12-26-06
    Ruth Birmingham, N/A, United Kingdom 12-26-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "thrilling"

    I thought this was a really interesting book the way it went back in time but kept coming back to the reality of old age and all the condescending ill-treatment and disrespect that goes with it. I was enthralled and had to keep listening until the end. A great writer and I definitely recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heidi Dana Point, CA, USA 12-22-06
    Heidi Dana Point, CA, USA 12-22-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    31
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    25
    13
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Definitely deserves best of the year award"

    This is an amazing book..the best audio book I've listened to since utilizing the Audible service. Well narrated, moving story, compelling characters, and an important reminder to not take our octogenarians and nonogenarians for granted..what amazing stories are out there that we are missing? I'm so glad I listened to this one!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gayle Winnipeg, MB, Canada 12-21-06
    Gayle Winnipeg, MB, Canada 12-21-06
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    1
    Overall
    "A Keeper"

    This is a wonderful book. It touches the heart with the pain of aging. It shows so clearly how the past is contained within the present. I loved finding out about the depression era circus and the difficulties in just living. But the main character, himself troubled, had a wonderful, albeit difficult life. The love that was his raison d'etre was wonderful to read about. And if the ending was not quite believable it was what we all wanted and would want for ourselves.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dorothy Reno, NV, USA 12-08-06
    Dorothy Reno, NV, USA 12-08-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Very good"

    The credit for this great listen really must go in part to the incredible narrators; beautifully voiced. Full of passion, I felt the emotion in his voice so many times it brought tears to my eyes. This is a well written book and an easy read. However as others have noted - quite difficult to listen to if you have a great love and devotion for animals as I do. I have never gone to circus' for that reason so I am not sure why I chose to read this. But it was quite terrific.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 991-1000 of 1083 results PREVIOUS199100101109NEXT
Sort by:
  • 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
  • A User
    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
  • Showing: 1-10 of 53 results PREVIOUS126NEXT

    There are no listener reviews for this title yet.

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

CANCEL

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.