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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 (17110 )
5 star
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3 star
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Overall
4.4 (9269 )
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Story
4.6 (9190 )
5 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Ron Sydney, Australia 04-22-09
    Ron Sydney, Australia 04-22-09 Member Since 2012

    Literary graduate and published columnist turned glorified grease monkey.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    159
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    85
    52
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    "great book, very well written"

    fantastic story line here. Even though it travels back and forth between past and present, it is easy to follow due to 2 different narrators. Showed an interesting side to being old. Funny ending and very comfortable story line. Characters are well developed and I was very drawn into the book. Great stuff.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Buice 04-20-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    60
    15
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Well written"

    I really enjoyed this book. I saw other reviewers liked the book so decided to try it. It was written and narrated beautifully. I really felt like I was part of the circus. The author invites you into the society without ovewhelming you with too much info.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael kansas city, MO, United States 04-11-09
    Michael kansas city, MO, United States 04-11-09

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    41
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    181
    55
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    5
    2
    Overall
    "get this.."

    if you like long stories that make you laugh and at the end make you think.. this is it. dont turn from this book get it and enjoy it.. i talked about this story for weeks.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cristina 03-28-09
    Cristina 03-28-09
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    81
    2
    Overall
    "Great Book, SUPERB narration"

    This is a great book, you will not be able to stop listening. The narration is one of the best I have heard so far, having two different voices for the character definitely transport you in time. You can almost feel like you're inside the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Micah searcy, AR, USA 03-24-09
    Micah searcy, AR, USA 03-24-09
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    32
    2
    Overall
    "will hold your attention!!!"

    I didn't want to turn off my ipod! I stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning to listen to this book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dorothy Gale 03-09-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    16
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Different story and excellent"

    Who would have thought that a story about a circus could be so intriguing. The character development is strong. The back and forth between the past and present is well done. This is a toroughly enjoyable listen.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alejandra Spring Hill, KS, United States 03-06-09
    Alejandra Spring Hill, KS, United States 03-06-09 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    101
    14
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Somewhat Good"

    This a nice story but not as engaging as some people have said. It is entertaining and has some nice touches on the details of the story. The characters are not as developed as I would like but still the author managed to make me care for the a bit. I don't regret buying it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pam Castletown, Australia 02-19-09
    Pam Castletown, Australia 02-19-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    71
    16
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Absorbing"

    I listenned to this book and was loathed to turn if off; it was so absorbing. I was hooked right from the very beginning. Jacob at 90(93) gave me new insight to how the elderly see themselves and the world and made me sad to think of how we treat them. Sara Gruen has to be commended on her sesitivity.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Troy 02-03-09
    Troy 02-03-09 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    239
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Genuine Story"

    The use of two narrators to portray the character at different times in his life is brilliant. Warning, you will cry.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori 01-30-09
    Lori 01-30-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    236
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    202
    45
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    8
    22
    Overall
    "Wonderful!"

    This is one of the best books I've ever read. Actually, I listened to this one and the narrators had me captivated from the very beginning and their narration really added a wonderful dimension to the book. I've talked with others who read it and enjoyed it but weren't as overwhelmed by it as I was, so I'm not sure if it was just the timing of when I read it or the audio version that made it so enjoyable for me. It felt sort of like a "Green Mile" at the circus.

    There were a couple of sex scenes that were too detailed for me and some language I could have done without, but the story had me engrossed from the very beginning. I see why Audible voted this "Best Audio Book of 2006."

    0 of 0 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 Mills
    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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