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)
I was instantly engaged in the characters and the story. I could smell the sawdust and popcorn. It introduced me to a new lifestyle. The ending was a little "off", but not so much to spoil the story.
I must admit that I was skeptical about this book, not thinking I would enjoy a story about a circus. The reviews here were so good that I went ahead and boy, was I glad that I did! The characterization in this novel is just superb; Gruen paints complex portraits of so many people. I particularly enjoyed how Jacob's roommate Walter came to life. The (dual) narration was one of the best I've heard in my many Audible listens. Just a wonderful book!
The story is relatively simple, but the characters are engrossing. I loved the mix of historical fact with fiction. Her handling of the switch between the 93 yr old Jacob and the 23 year old Jacob was superb! It is truly a story that will stay with me for a very long time. The narrator for the 93 yr old Jacob was especially endearing. This book was so good that I actually put off finishing the last 20 minutes because I didn't want to say "good-bye" to Jacob, Marlena and Rosie!
I loved this book. Insights into the treatment of our wise elders, the life on a circus during the depression... Like nothing I have listened to before. I'll recommend it again and again.
What a moving story of love and and the desire to live. Fantastic narration made you feel that you experienced the lives of these wonderful characters.
This book ranks up there with Life of Pi and The time travellers wife.
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