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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 (17106 )
5 star
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4.4 (9266 )
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4.6 (9187 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    F. Curry 05-17-08
    F. Curry 05-17-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    50
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "nice, warm read"

    Warm, nice story to curl up with..loved the ending.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly san anselmo, CA, USA 05-11-08
    Kimberly san anselmo, CA, USA 05-11-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    70
    10
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "rich characters"

    I loved this story, espeically the two different narrators. Such great characters!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Kinser Chesapeake, VA, US 05-09-08
    Karen Kinser Chesapeake, VA, US 05-09-08 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    86
    11
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Water . . . and PRAISE for Elephants."

    This is only the 2nd review I have written . . . and this is the 2nd most WONDERFUL story I have listened to in a very very long time.
    I cannot help but be reminded of "Little Big Man" in the almost epic quality and history of the story - as well as the attitude and "voice" of the storyteller. This tale entwined the magic that is the circus with the magic of love and lust and greed and all things human. And besides . . . it was entertaining as Barnum & Bailey themselves! I loved the connection with the animals . . . and the description of the era. I have nothing but praise for this "read". Who will write the screenplay? It will be in theatres for sure!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jin Poughkeepsie, NY, USA 04-30-08
    Jin Poughkeepsie, NY, USA 04-30-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    5
    Overall
    "Entertaining listen"

    I enjoyed this book, thought the two narrators were excellent and the storyline was intriguing. However the main character didn't resonate with me, he was very two dimensional.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erin Liman Palo Alto, CA United States 04-28-08
    Erin Liman Palo Alto, CA United States 04-28-08 Member Since 2007
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    Overall
    "Wonderful"

    I loved this book.

    Not only were the personalities of the main characters richly conveyed -- the circus animals were vividly painted as well. Though at times, I felt like shaking the main character and saying "what are you thinking?" -- I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sham IRVINE, US, Canada 04-27-08
    Sham IRVINE, US, Canada 04-27-08 Member Since 2005

    Schammer

    HELPFUL VOTES
    42
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    467
    17
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Great"

    Great read. Great reader. Tha's all you need to know. Read it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amy Napa, CA, USA 04-16-08
    Amy Napa, CA, USA 04-16-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    39
    1
    Overall
    "Great circuis love story"

    I really liked this book. It chronicals the characters well. You feel like you are part of the story line. I had no idea what circuis life was like in the 20's & 30's. I recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MoxyIdeas 04-13-08
    MoxyIdeas 04-13-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    156
    17
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Wonderful!"

    This is a wonderful story - at times stark and sad, at times lovely and touching. I loved the ending. The narrators were convincing - I was at the circus, then I was at the nursing home. Thank you, Ms. Gruen! Excellent!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Phoenix, AZ, United States 04-01-08
    Linda Phoenix, AZ, United States 04-01-08 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    13
    5
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "A Must Read"

    From my first listen, I knew I did not want this book to end. A wonderfully written, poignant tale of the life of a kind, gentle, man forced into situations one can only imagine. Today, I finished "Water for Elephants" and I feel bereft that I can not continue. I can't wait to discuss this book at my book club.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca san jose, CA, USA 04-01-08
    Rebecca san jose, CA, USA 04-01-08 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    Overall
    "Great!"

    Both the story and the reading are out of this world. It resonated with me for days after finishing it.

    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 Mills
    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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