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Water for Elephants Audiobook

Water for Elephants

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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

4.4 (16862 )
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4.4 (9041 )
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4.5 (8962 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Leslie Greenwood, IN, United States 01-02-09
    Leslie Greenwood, IN, United States 01-02-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    160
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent narration!"

    The narration of "Water for Elephants" is truly one of the best I have heard! Both narrators are outstanding, adding so much depth to each "side" of the main character. This is a wonderful book on its own, but I am so glad I listened to it rather than reading the paper copy. The performers really added to my enjoyment of the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hannah berlinGermany 12-31-08
    Hannah berlinGermany 12-31-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    "easy on the ears- no surprises"

    This book is a good one to listen to if you aren't looking for anything too challenging. It's not a heavy book- the story follows a pretty predictable trajectory. It's a love story. I am not saying this is a bad thing- sometimes it is exactly what I want to hear. The narrators were easy on the ears and added a lot to the characters without over-acting (although the narrator's female voices were a bit silly). Historic elements were well-researched which added a bit of richness (if you liked Stewart O'Nan's "circus fire", this is a good fictional companion to it). I would put this book on the "entertaining-story-to-listen-to-while-doing-something-slightly-banal-but-requiring-a-degree-of-mental-activity" shelf. Not quite enough meat for "road-trip-through-desert-country", more suitable for "re-apholstering-the-sofa" or "knitting-something-only-slightly-more-complicated-than-mittens"sections of the library.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Stephens Williamsburg, VA USA 12-23-08
    C. Stephens Williamsburg, VA USA 12-23-08 Member Since 2007

    The 25-Hour Mom

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    4
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    Overall
    "water for the soul"

    This book came together in so many ways. The narrators were excellent. It didn't bother me that the book went back and forth between the two time periods. It was well done. I hope my mind is as sharp at 90 (or 93).

    Some books you never want to end, some you can't finish, and some don't end ... they just stop. This one could not have had a more perfect ending ... and I never saw it coming. It was a wonderful surprise.

    This was the best listen I've had all year.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy COFFS HARBOURAustralia 12-21-08
    Wendy COFFS HARBOURAustralia 12-21-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    24
    12
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    "wendygai"

    a great story, beautifully written and narrated

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Cooper 12-07-08 Listener Since 2008
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    2
    Overall
    "Wonderful story"

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a good human interest story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 11-20-08 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    1
    Overall
    "Great narration, wonderful story"

    I enjoyed this audio for the wonderful juxtaposition of the two Jacobs plus the wild circus story. A couple of times I thought the Marlena story was a bit unbelievable. But other than that the cast of supporting characters, Kinko, Camel and the like were unforgettable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael norwalk, CA, USA 11-11-08
    Michael norwalk, CA, USA 11-11-08 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    7
    2
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    Overall
    "water for elephants"

    Amazing book. Very well written. Very well read.
    I could not wait to get back into my car to hear more. I was sorry when it was over. Must read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Cranberry Twp., Pa, United States 11-10-08
    Amazon Customer Cranberry Twp., Pa, United States 11-10-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
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    116
    28
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    Overall
    "One of the Best!"

    This is one of the best Audio Books I have listened to in a LONG time. The story is great and the readers are even better. A bad reader can really wreck a story - but a good reader - adds depth and understanding to the work.
    I was hoping the book would never end!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 11-01-08 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    6
    4
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    "Astonishing"

    This was a view of the circus world that I had no idea existed, and frankly wasn't interested in. Thanks to my book club for picking one of the best books I've read. The brash, brutal existence of circus workers was fascinating. The different perspectives of the young and old Jacob were very rich. This narration was so engaging I could not put it down. Even if you don't like the circus, this audio book is a treasure.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jaymie Winamac, IN, USA 10-02-08
    Jaymie Winamac, IN, USA 10-02-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    51
    10
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    "I loved this book!"

    This book was definetly a great listen. Both readers were just enjoyable. The story line is so engaging and really pulls you in. I was actually sad when it was over.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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.

    10 of 10 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.

    8 of 8 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.........

    7 of 7 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.

    6 of 6 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

    6 of 6 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

    6 of 6 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 !!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • holly bird
    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.

    6 of 6 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.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Madgey
    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.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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