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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.
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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 (13670 )
5 star
 (7614)
4 star
 (3999)
3 star
 (1380)
2 star
 (394)
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 (283)
Overall
4.3 (6139 )
5 star
 (3458)
4 star
 (1682)
3 star
 (695)
2 star
 (184)
1 star
 (120)
Story
4.5 (6059 )
5 star
 (3892)
4 star
 (1531)
3 star
 (449)
2 star
 (100)
1 star
 (87)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Dr, Julie Jackson 10-24-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    56
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "all ages"

    good book for listening. shared it with a teenager and an 89 year old. we all liked it.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicole Minneapolis, MN, United States 10-16-09
    Nicole Minneapolis, MN, United States 10-16-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    84
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Sophie's choice"

    the book was good until you realize that 3/4 of a way into the book it is sophie's choice in a different package. relation ship characteristics are the same. the narration is good, i like it when books choose different actors for different characters. Good but NOT great

    3 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana Kamuela, HI, United States 07-05-09
    Diana Kamuela, HI, United States 07-05-09 Member Since 2005

    I find a reason to laugh everyday!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    57
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    200
    15
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Disappointing"

    I do not understand all the five stars. I couldn't disagree more. This amateur effort is nowhere near a classic. The plot is thin and the characters woefully undeveloped. At times it read like a cheap bodice ripper (romance novel). The author repeatedly required suspension of disbelief which this reader could not do. Bright spot: the old Jacob narrator was good and old Jacob's story was enjoyable. But this could not carry the book. I struggled to read the whole thing, and unfortunately I shouldn't have bothered.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan San Diego, CA, United States 04-27-09
    Alan San Diego, CA, United States 04-27-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    80
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    386
    100
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Warning - overly romantic"

    I didn’t find this to be a great adventure book. It’s kind of a weird circus romance story. It’s not bad but not what I enjoy. Good reminder that I don’t want to grow old and feeble.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard T. Jenkins 11-23-08 Listener Since 2008

    lisa

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "tough to get through"

    I thought this book was far from great I found it to be boring.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robaccione United States 05-10-08
    Robaccione United States 05-10-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    33
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    52
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Cheap Thrill"

    Disappointing. #1 novel on Audible in 2006?! I'd categorize it a "cheap dime novel", as we used to refer to books cranked out by authors who stooped to adding sordid events with the hope of attracting more readers. Every other chapter in this book has some unnecessary titillating account with cheap sexual descriptions.

    32 of 82 people found this review helpful
  •  
    11-06-09
    11-06-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    101
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    60
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "offensive if you don't like R rated movies"

    I barely made it though the first four chapters of the book before I just couldn't listen to it anymore. I'm disappointed as I had heard it was a good book. For one, the language is too offensive for me to continue listening to. Another reason is that there is a disgusting scene described with a circus prostitute. Need I say more? I wish someone had warned me in a review before I spent the money and time downloading it. So if you don't watch R rated movies and even get offended at some PG-13 rated movies, then this book isn't for you either and you won't have to waste your time or money.

    98 of 253 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey Delisle 03-18-10

    affectionado

    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    104
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Watery Gruel"

    I bought this title based on enthusiastic, almost cultist reviews and its place on the bestseller lists. I found the plot tendentious and trite, and the protagonist both weak and unattractive. I quit about 1/2 way through. I later learned of a number of others who greatly disliked this book. So, before purchasing, be aware that as great as some are calling it, there are a lot of folks who not only dislike it, but think it's junk.

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brenda Lawnton, Australia 12-22-13
    Brenda Lawnton, Australia 12-22-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not a book for everyone."
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I think people who can get past big chunks of uninteresting parts in a book might find this book good.


    What was most disappointing about Sara Gruen’s story?

    I never finished the book, and considering I don't really have to go to any amount of effort to listen to an audio book, it kinda shows that either it's a boring book, or it really wasn't for me. I think it just took too long to cut to the chase, I think I was about 3 hours in and nothing interesting had happened yet.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    The narration was good, the voices seemed like they matched the characters.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment; I had read a few reviews in favour of the book and a few people being ridiculous about their distain for some explicit parts in the book. So the fact that I didn't actually see any constructive criticism gave me the idea that the book would at least be "listen-to-able"; but alas it wasn't.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Nixa, MO, United States 10-11-13
    Kim Nixa, MO, United States 10-11-13 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    246
    17
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very skeptical"

    Loved every minute reader, story and everything about it................really did not think I wold like it at all..............just could not stop listening..........Great just hated it had to end

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1051-1060 of 1096 results PREVIOUS1105106107110NEXT
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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