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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 (13683 )
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4.3 (6152 )
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4.5 (6072 )
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    09-20-06
    09-20-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    80
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Incredible"

    Depression era circus, nursing home in 2005.. Not many authors could make this juxtaposition work the way that this book does. There is an amazing sense of "being there" in this audio production. You can smell the air, feel the heat, it's completely engrossing. The narration of the character is spot-on by both narrators. You can't ask for a better blend of story and sound!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T A Mora Hollister, CA 09-20-06
    T A Mora Hollister, CA 09-20-06 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    104
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    3
    Overall
    "Great !"

    I enjoyed this book. It was Like taking a little vacation. The narration was believable.The characters were interesting. I felt like I was in the circus with them all. Recomended!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff deland, FL, USA 09-20-06
    Jeff deland, FL, USA 09-20-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "well told story, great naration"

    One of the better listens of late. Story is told first person from 2 time perspectives with great naration, particularly from the elder "jacob".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Avegail Bakersfield, CA, USA 09-19-06
    Avegail Bakersfield, CA, USA 09-19-06
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    "Captivating !"

    I thoroughly enjoyed the plot. The 2 narrators were awesome! I intended to buy this audio for long drives or flight, and I ended up finishing it so quickly. It's a rich storytelling that anyone can relate to. It makes you ponder upon your priorities in life, as life does pass by quickly. What if I live to be a hundred ? Which memories will I retain ? I enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha and Kite Runner. I was waiting for something similar - Life and culture. It's A Must read !

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon 09-17-06
    Sharon 09-17-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    46
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    252
    17
    FOLLOWERS
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    1
    0
    Overall
    "Outstanding! Bravo!"

    I have been an Audible member for several years and I have heard many many books. However, this is at the very top. The narration is fantastic and the story is just wonderful. Couldn't stop listening. Action, mystery, romance, humor and heartbreak all wrapped up in a great tale of people and circumstances we rarely ever hear about. Definitely worth downloading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenda Wesley Chapel, FL, USA 09-15-06
    Glenda Wesley Chapel, FL, USA 09-15-06 Member Since 2005
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    14
    1
    Overall
    "Engrossing story"

    This book is very well written. The author does an outstanding job of capturing the feel of what life was like during the depression. By using the two narratives of the same character at different times in his life, the author kept me interested to see what the next chapter would bring. I think it was very poignant to hear the perspective of the older Jacob as he nears the end of his life.

    I found the book to be compelling and could not wait to get back to listening every chance I had. Almost listened straight through.

    Listening to Jacob at 93 probably will give most people a completely different understanding of the aging process. I certainly was able to identify some of his feelings with those of my older family.

    And lastly, just a quick word about Rosie. She just captured my heart. What a doll!

    Highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a story with good depth of characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richmond Rabinowitz 09-14-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    80
    13
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Wonderful"

    The other reviews say most of what I thought. I would just like to add that Jacob at 90 or 93 was one of the most well drawn characters in any book I have ever read. Great story that you can't bear to leave, beautifully written and read but best of all, it gave rare insight into old age. Don't miss this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maxine Fuentes 09-14-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    60
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    4
    5
    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 Listener Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    56
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    288
    35
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    3
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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
    695
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    365
    104
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    27
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    Overall
    "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
  • Showing: 1031-1040 of 1096 results PREVIOUS1103104105110NEXT
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 55 results PREVIOUS126NEXT

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