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
"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)
As a video biographer, I talk to people in their 70's and 80's and hear all their wisdom. And see how we (the younger) all ignore it - in general. This book had the wonderful combination of the young account of what was going on "now" and the 90/93 year old man looking back with hindsight, nostalgia, and resignation. The narration was exquisite. A gem.
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This is one of the best books I have ever 'read'. Not only was it a great story but the old school circus background was intriquing as well. Characters are people you would like to know. I did not want it to end.
The story, presented from the perspectives of the 93-year old and 23-year-old hero, is lively, charming, interesting, and sensitive. The narration in the two voices is the best I have heard in dozens, and dozens of books this summer. The voice of the 93-year-old Jacob pulls you into the world of the circus, past and present, and into his life in the nursing home with deep feeling and pathos.
Don't let the narrator turn you off in the beginning. I started listening and thought that I would hate having to listen to an old man for the duration of the book but my opinion changed very quickly and found those portions of the book endearing in no time. It was refreshing to get to the end of the book and be surprised. Most books these days are predictable but this one had a few turns in it that I didn't see coming. A good read, very entertaining.
I was not sure about listening to someone reading to me least of all a story. This was wonderful. Would recommend it to anyone who wants a good story read in a way that brings the story to life!
What a nice surprise! This is storytelling at its best - past and present - thanks to the excellent narrators. One of the best this summer!
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