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Water for Elephants Audiobook

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

4.4 (16108 )
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4.5 (8277 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    J. Spetz San Mateo, CA USA 10-14-07
    J. Spetz San Mateo, CA USA 10-14-07 Member Since 2012

    Jojo

    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
    ratings
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    50
    3
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    Overall
    "Excellent narration"

    This is a wonderful book, and also one of the best narrations I've encountered in an audiobook. The two narrators are excellent actors, and I was quickly engaged in both. The humor in the book was brought out extremely well by the narrators, and I laughed a lot while listening. In the last three hours, I could not stop listening - but now that it's over I'm sad to be done with it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie San Diego, CA, USA 10-11-07
    Laurie San Diego, CA, USA 10-11-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    4
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    Overall
    "Water for Elephants"

    From the beginning to the end of this tale I felt like I was in the skin of character. His love for the animals and his lady gave me insight to the life during the depression and life in the circus. The author and narrator(s) did a great job of keeping it real and making me feel the heartbeat of plot.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sylvia Camarillo, CA, USA 10-11-07
    Sylvia Camarillo, CA, USA 10-11-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
    Overall
    "Great Book!"

    I got so much out of this book told in two voices; the man at 23 and the same man at 93. It was an astounding story. I thought about it for days after finishing.
    Highly recommended

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nanny 10-05-07
    Nanny 10-05-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    177
    9
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    FOLLOWING
    1
    1
    Overall
    "WOW"

    What a book! Lovely story that is narrated excellently. I couldn't take the plugs out of my ears.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda 09-27-07
    Linda 09-27-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    22
    8
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    Overall
    "Touching and tender"

    This story of a veterinary student who loses everything and joins a circus is told through the eyes of a young man and the old man he becomes. It is a touching and tender story of love and loss, richly drawn with characters you'll remember long after you finish the book. The readers - one young, the other old - are exceptional.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sherry L. Wright Flower Mound, TX United States 09-27-07
    Sherry L. Wright Flower Mound, TX United States 09-27-07 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    175
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    447
    63
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    11
    14
    Overall
    "Made my heart sad..."

    But also was very well written to evoke such deep feelings, feelings of rage, hate, happiness, sadness and nostalgia. I loved both readers, the narration is done very well; never getting lost within past and present. Highly recommend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KarenD 09-23-07
    KarenD 09-23-07 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    126
    1
    Overall
    "Great narration"

    This is an interesting story with good plot and character development. What made it wonderful was the narration - two actors/narrators played (and read) the roles of young and old Jacob. They were outstanding and made the story come alive.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Magent 09-23-07
    Magent 09-23-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    105
    7
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    "Engrossing and endearing"

    This is a book that can be read, and read again. Sara Gruen has a written a heart warming tale of Jacob Jablonsky, a would-be vetinarian, who as a result of personal tragedy, finds himself working for a circus during the depression era. Ms. Gruen deftly juxtaposes the old and the young Jacob, facing life's challenges and making decisons that define who they are and whom they will be. An elephant never forgets.....and I will never forget this novel.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    09-22-07
    09-22-07 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    4
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    "A must read"

    Sarah Gruen's novel is the best read I have had all year!!! He portrayal of her aging protagenist is so genuine and realistic.

    This is an absolute must read for anyone with aging parents or caring for the elderly. It is insightful and funny. A real breath of fresh air.

    Water for Elephants is destine to be a classic

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gwen K. 09-20-07
    Gwen K. 09-20-07 Listener Since 2003

    gwenkz

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Performance
    Story
    "Great Listen"

    I just want to say that both readers were awesome. This book had me looking forward to my commute. The writing was so vivid, it was almost like watching a movie. I highly recommend this wonderful listen.

    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
    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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