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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.
Regular Price:$24.46
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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 (13164 )
5 star
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4.3 (5670 )
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Story
4.5 (5600 )
5 star
 (3581)
4 star
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3 star
 (420)
2 star
 (94)
1 star
 (79)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Maxine Fuentes 09-14-06 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    60
    ratings
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    10
    3
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    Overall
    "Captivating"

    I love a great, well read story. This is both. I truly felt "with" Jacob as he recounted his story. I laughed, worried, became enraged, cried and then as it ended I just smiled with complete satisfaction. I have Elana, August, Walter, Uncle Al, Rosey and dear Rosemary pictured in my mind with great clarity.
    I have listened to many books and this is the best ever. I am telling everyone I know to listen to this wonderful book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Denver, CO, United States 09-13-06
    Mary Denver, CO, United States 09-13-06 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    56
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    288
    35
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    3
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Wanted the story to go on and on!"

    I loved this book so much! The story was compelling, the characters were loveable (and hate-able as pertains to the evil characthers!). I loved the sweet, loyal Rosie and that the story left me with a good feeling and an insight into understanding elderly people. Don't miss this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Pembroke Pines, FL, United States 09-12-06
    Richard Pembroke Pines, FL, United States 09-12-06 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    660
    ratings
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    365
    104
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    "A diamond"

    I am another that doesn't like circuses and did not think I would like this book. I was certainly wrong as this is an inciteful story, well read by both narrators. I had trouble stopping listening and nearly went through the 12 hours non-stop. The perspective of the 23 and 90 or 93 year old man was brilliant. The author nailed this one and I could easily put myself in the old mans place. I would recommend this book to anyone that wants an interesting story, well told.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynn* Troy, MI, USA 09-10-06
    Lynn* Troy, MI, USA 09-10-06 Member Since 2002
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    112
    2
    Overall
    "The best of Audible"

    As a 4 year veteran of Audible, I can say with confidence that this is the most outstanding book I have encountered. The story was unique and imaginative, suspensful and endearing.

    It is the narration, however, that brings this book to life. Clever distinctions between characters of the young Jacob, superb pacing and emotion from the older Jacob.

    I would not be surprised to see this under the Awards category. Not to be missed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Escanaba, MI, USA 09-09-06
    Stephen Escanaba, MI, USA 09-09-06 Member Since 2006
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    141
    4
    Overall
    "A Wonder-filled Story"


    Well read and well written, are the first thoughts I have about this book. The author and the readers capture the experience of the characters and the plot is well done from beginning to end. A story about hope, love, grief and change. I will recommend it to all persons working with the elderly because it illustrates the importance of hearing the the story that every person has to tell.
    It will leave you smiling.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan woodridge, IL, USA 09-02-06
    Jan woodridge, IL, USA 09-02-06 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    8
    3
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    "top of my list for good reads"

    i tend to pick books from best sellers lists and reviews and this did not disappoint. i was unsure of the circus theme...but the story line was so much more. this ranks right up there with 'secret life of bees' - which is my all time favorite book! a must read!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rob Auburn Hills, MI, USA 08-31-06
    Rob Auburn Hills, MI, USA 08-31-06 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    40
    ratings
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    30
    9
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    "A Jewel of a story."

    What a great jewel of a story to find. I'm new to Audio and I was just browsing all the lists. This caught my eye for some reason, and I can't believe how it paid off. I'm usually into thrillers and cops, but this was just like watching a good old b&w movie, one where you just feel great when it is over.

    The two periods in time, are done really well, and the readers are great.

    I couldn't wait to get back into the car and get the story back on.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erica St. Ignatius, MT, USA 08-29-06
    Erica St. Ignatius, MT, USA 08-29-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    7
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    "Stunning and Gripping!"

    Just a fantastic story! From the beginning I was wrapped up in the story. The characters are real and wonderful, and the story is fascinating and heart wrenching. By the end I was grinning from ear to ear as my eyes teared up, and laughing out loud, all at the same time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shane Indianapolis, IN, United States 08-28-06
    Shane Indianapolis, IN, United States 08-28-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    8
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    "Wow...Loved It"

    Not a circus fan but loved this story..... it was done well and held my attention. Good characters and good story with a nice ending, so many writers struggle with a good ending.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bruce M. Anderson Houston, Texas United States 08-26-06
    Bruce M. Anderson Houston, Texas United States 08-26-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
    ratings
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    31
    8
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    "I just loved this book"

    What a story teller. The transposition between the old man and the story of his youth in the circus was just perfect.

    I recommend this to anyone who loves good story telling.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1021-1030 of 1079 results PREVIOUS1102103104108NEXT
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 52 results PREVIOUS126NEXT

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