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Water for Elephants Audiobook

Water for Elephants

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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 (16836 )
5 star
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Overall
4.4 (9019 )
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4.5 (8940 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Jeffrey Knoxville, TN, USA 03-07-08
    Jeffrey Knoxville, TN, USA 03-07-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    3
    1
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    Overall
    "A well-told tale"

    To be honest I could not even remember what prompted me to download this book but it was highly entertaining. The two narrators, one representing the young, 20-something Jacob, and the other, a 90-something Jacob, are superb. The ending is a bit predictable for the younger Jacob and somewhat of a stretch for the older Jacob but the path the storyline takes to get you there makes it well worth the journey.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Voss 03-06-08
    J. Voss 03-06-08

    vossj12

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    41
    3
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "One veterinarian to another"

    What a fabulous tale. Crafted perfectly between the protagonists memories and present life. The details of how he came to be a pseudo veterinarian due to person catastrophe are believable. What a riveting tale!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Bronx, NY, United States 03-05-08
    Jennifer Bronx, NY, United States 03-05-08 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    78
    ratings
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    459
    97
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    "Wonderful book - well worth the money!"

    Really one of the few books that was engaging from beginning to end. Very entertaining and well written. Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CH Kaufman NY 02-26-08
    CH Kaufman NY 02-26-08 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
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    27
    7
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    Overall
    "Terrific"

    I loved this book, one of those I slowed down at the end to make it last. Very moving and emotinal

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle waycross, GA, USA 02-21-08
    Michelle waycross, GA, USA 02-21-08 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    93
    20
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    "delightful"

    Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeanne 02-20-08
    Jeanne 02-20-08 Listener Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    22
    10
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    "Loved it!"

    I loved this book from beginning to end. Great listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenys EAST MALVERNAustralia 02-17-08
    Glenys EAST MALVERNAustralia 02-17-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    2
    Overall
    "glenniw"

    Starts off a little slow, but soon becomes an interesting look at a man when he is young and when he is 90 (or 93 he's not sure) reminiscing on his youth when he worked for "the greatest show on earth" triggered by an upcoming treat of a circus visit organised by the aged care home he lives in.
    The use of two different people make the age difference believable..I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Helen Austin Texas 02-15-08
    Helen Austin Texas 02-15-08 Member Since 2007

    Reading Raven

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "WOW! A Gift!"

    This book has a dark and realistic tempo of life in the circus during the depression. I compliment the research for this book creating a sound and imaginative storyline. A story of brutality as well as friendship. Great character development leaving you wanting more but not lost without development. A wonderful story for animal lovers and another unique love story for couples against the odds. Narration was recorded like they were talking to you, I appreciated that most. It felt very evocative and real. On an entirely different note it allows you to be in the shoes of a 90 something year old man and feel how we treat our mature population in a unique, non-judgemental way. You will be left pondering in a very good way. Without giving away the ending all I can say is, I clapped. Bravo!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet CASEY, IL, United States 02-08-08
    Janet CASEY, IL, United States 02-08-08 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "SOBERING"

    THIS BOOK BRINGS TO REALITY THE THINKING OF THE AGING IN A VERY VIVID WAY. AS AN RN IT DID OPEN MY EYES TO THE AGED PATIENTS I HAVE DEALT WITH. I HOPE I WILL BE MORE UNDERSTANDING TO THEIR NEEDS SINCE READING THIS BOOK. I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT THE BAD LANGUAGE.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pearl Anna McElfish 01-31-08 Member Since 2010
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    56
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    Overall
    "Excellent!!!!!!!!"

    This book was wonderful

    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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