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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 (13669 )
5 star
 (7613)
4 star
 (3999)
3 star
 (1380)
2 star
 (394)
1 star
 (283)
Overall
4.3 (6137 )
5 star
 (3456)
4 star
 (1682)
3 star
 (695)
2 star
 (184)
1 star
 (120)
Story
4.5 (6057 )
5 star
 (3891)
4 star
 (1530)
3 star
 (449)
2 star
 (100)
1 star
 (87)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    rachael WOODACRE, CA, United States 07-01-12
    rachael WOODACRE, CA, United States 07-01-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "entertaining"
    What did you love best about Water for Elephants?

    I did not really love it , but I enjoyed it


    Would you be willing to try another book from Sara Gruen? Why or why not?

    probaly not


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    it is a good story not amazing but entertaining

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JACQUELINE SANDY, UT, United States 05-19-12
    JACQUELINE SANDY, UT, United States 05-19-12 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "don't buy"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    nothing


    Has Water for Elephants turned you off from other books in this genre?

    absolutely not


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ?

    the narrator is not the problem, it's the storyline


    Any additional comments?

    the entire story, while it points out some realities most of us don't want to know about, upset me so much I never finished the book. I will delete it from my library permanently!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel United States 08-08-11
    Daniel United States 08-08-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    35
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    115
    29
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    4
    Overall
    "Too predictable"

    My sister recommended this book and I now refuse to get anything she recommends. By chapter 4, I thought I knew what was coming. By chapter 7, my fears were confirmed. If you like listening to people tell their life stories over and over, even though you know what's coming, then you will love this book.
    The story would have been very interesting if the author would have done a better job of employing flash back / flash forward tools. For me, that is what ruins it. It just became too predictable. It's like reading a story by starting with the last 3 chapters, then going to the beginning.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jana Sammamish, WA, United States 06-12-11
    Jana Sammamish, WA, United States 06-12-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    "good story, too many distractions"

    I did not like this book at all. Too foul and graffic. Could have been a good story but the wordage was distracting.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian Sutcliffe Poughkeepsie, NY United States 05-30-11
    Brian Sutcliffe Poughkeepsie, NY United States 05-30-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    31
    30
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Loved It"

    I really enjoyed this. Both narrators are very good.

    I was sick of the one man army stories like 61 hours by Lee Child.

    This is a great book that everyone would enjoy.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matteo Lombardi Barcelona, Spain 05-30-11
    Matteo Lombardi Barcelona, Spain 05-30-11 Member Since 2011

    I love learning thru books, about life, people and ways to be better. My best listen so far? The Power of Now, have a good listen!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    81
    32
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Didnt like this audibook"

    First time I choose an audiobook based on ratings and I didnt really like it. The story was boaring, just read it with the hope it would get better as the ratings wore so great. Some chapter are narrated by a yonger caracter, some an older one. The chapters of the older caracter dont add anything to the story, they are a story of a grumpy old man in a nursing home, besides the last chapter I dont understand what does it had to the story.

    I guess most people like this audiobook as it has really high ratings but I really didnt like it, The Pillars of the earth is still the top in my list of audibooks (havent read that many yet).

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brenda Charlestown, IN, United States 04-28-11
    Brenda Charlestown, IN, United States 04-28-11 Member Since 2007

    Happiness is a good book!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    49
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    86
    58
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    1
    Overall
    "im just gonna have to watch the movie"

    I tried to read this book but got lost, depressed and bored. So, off to redbox I go, maybe Edward the vampire can spice it up a bit. I am sure it's just me cause everybody else seemed to like it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christina Brigantine, NJ, United States 04-03-11
    Christina Brigantine, NJ, United States 04-03-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    3
    Overall
    "Loved reading it, wanted to love listening to it.."

    Oh how I loved reading this book - and that is the only reason this audiobook has 2 stars. If I were rating the audiobook on its own merits - story aside - I would give it a negative 2 stars!

    This story itself is amazing, and I came by the book quite by accident. It was passed on to my by a fellow traveler in The Balkans last year, and never having heard of it, I had no expectations. I decided to take it as my "fluff read" on a train from Belgrade to Budapest and once I opened it, I could not put it down.

    I had gone to Budapest to visit a life-long friend, whom I had not seen in a few years. Somewhat embarrassingly, I found that even while I was excited to see my friend, I was so compelled to see what happened next in the story that every time she left the room (even just to use the bathroom) I immediately picked up the book again. (I left the book with her when I departed for Belgrade, and my friend felt just as strongly about the book as did I, so I felt a little justified.)

    So later in the year, when I had a 28 hour travel day coming up, I decided to download the audiobook version - WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT!

    The narration is so annoying! The voice of the main character sounds as if, at any moment, the guy is going to snicker "just kiddin'" and poke you in the ribs. GRATING to say the least.

    I still love this story and am excited to see the film that is coming out. But I would NOT recommend the audiobook version. Read this one on your own. It is an amazing story and the odd narration really ruins it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana J Watson 03-17-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Poor narration"

    I loved this book in print, but could not abide the reader. I quit after about 90 minutes. A real disappointment.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cindy ramona, CA, United States 01-16-11
    cindy ramona, CA, United States 01-16-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "as they leave our planet one by one....."

    ....i have recently found myself wondering why god (or whoever is in charge of this whole kit-n-kaboodle) keeps taking the good ones off the planet so early.....as they seem to being misplaced with average ones or less. this fictional memoir will make you yearn to hear the amazing stories of cultures that don't exist anymore by the folks that lived them....who are disappearing from our planet day by day. I had a wonderful old cowboy friend...a true cowboy..that died recently. He spoke of riding horses into bars and droving cattle for days on end. This book is about a man that had a parallel life to my friend Uncle James the cowboy. The circus culture is disappearing as the cowboy has.....and this book truly honors the lifestyle with it's difficulties and glorious moments. The narration is simply brilliant. Don't miss it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1061-1070 of 1096 results PREVIOUS1106107108110NEXT
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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