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)
You must be patient to enjoy this book. It is not the fastest listen. A batch of interesting characters who change throughut the years. The circus is a great backdrop for some wonderful character development.
Addicted to books, both print and audio-.
I did not finish this book, so take that into consideration in reading this review. This book has been recommended to me by several people. I enjoyed the opening and really liked John Randolph Jones's narration. Once we got into the story of his younger self, however, the writing was so cliched and the dialogue so stereotypical that I felt I'd read the book many times before. It seemed like a book that would be titled "I Traveled With the Circus" aimed at 10-year-olds. I came back to it a few times but grew so irritated with the writing that I abandoned the project. I should have listened to Janice!
The pace was too slow and there really was no point to it all. I almost turned it off on five different occasions, but fought through it only to be ultimately disappointed. I never write reviews, but felt compelled to do so on this one: Don't believe the hype -- this book is average at best, a waste of time at worst.
The Path Between the Seas to The Great Bridge ~ Kagan's Peloponnesian War to Gaddis' Cold One ~ Mornings on Horseback to a River of Doubt ~ Tom to Huck ~ Lennie to Charley ~ Cadfael to Cross ~ Rhyme to Reacher ~ Blomkvist and Salander to Wallander and Wallander ~ Moving Cheese or Eating Frogs ~ On the Road and Into Thin Air ~ The End of History to A Short History of Everything to ... well ... everything else.
If you have not read, or listened, to this wonderful book yet, do it now. A beautiful story of memories lost and found, of young love and a life lived well, of courage and its consequences, and of elephants! (well, at least one).
This is one of those novels you will listen to more than once.
Imagine, for a moment that the author of the Hardy Boys chose another pen name and wrote a book about a young man who joins the circus and finds true love. Although I did manage to finish the book (I wouldn't make that choice again), I am surprised by the high ratings this title has received. Be warned; I'm hanging the red lantern on this circus train. The protagonist does everything but say 'aw shucks'. He is practically forced into sex by women who unzip him, thus escaping all responsibility. And the writing includes such gems as "solid as an oblisk; viscous as water". Viscous as water? Given the ratings, there must be a good audience for this kind of book.... but I'm not it.
Composer, reader, hommus eater
This is beautifully performed, and it's a mammoth work so the two performers did excellently to keep pace.
However: the book itself has some holes in it. Firstly, it gets monotonous. It's sort of two toned the whole way - even in the high action part, the circus story part, it has this sort of one-dimensional 'main character does something naughty- lots of swearing occurs - bad stuff happens' cycle which leaves you waiting for something to happen - and when the climax of action does happen, you're left feeling a bit hollow because it just feels very similar to everything that's happened before.
Also, the women aren't written particularly well, which is kind of odd coming from a female author (sexism, much Helen? Oh dear.) No really, in all honesty I wanted the lady characters to have bit more nous than this sort of flimsy damsel in distress feel that might be typical of an early 20th century pulp novel but really has no place in 21st century dramatic realist literature.
There are some beautifully profound moments by the old guy though, which I found really touching, and thought provoking too.
But seriously Gruen, step up your women characters!
I like unabridged novels. When I first joined Audible, many were abridged. That has changed. Non-fiction, politics, bios are favorites
I loved this book. There were so many interactions to focus on but the one I liked the best was between Rosemary and the 93 or 90 year old resident of the nursing home. I have been to many nursing homes and realize how hard it is to see the people "parked" outside their rooms as anything but furniture. Rosemary was a great example of grace. Her kind attention to this one old man was a center piece of the the book. She just took time to listen and care.
What a book!! From the very first paragraph I was hooked. The author's descriptions of people, places, and especially the animals were incredible--I could see it all clearly in my mind. Both the narrators were great. I was truly sorry when the book ended.
This book is a moving story centered around a circus, of all places. I'll have to say that the circus theme didn't interest me and almost made me not order this book. I'm glad I took a chance based on all of the great reviews.
The narration by the old Jacob is worth the price of admission alone. I could really imagine myself with a young mind stuck in an old body. So believable! The story he recalls through the young Jacob's narration is also remarkable. And the ending is fantastic.
Take a chance like I did even if you don't like the circus. You won't regret it.
Constantly in search of the perfect listen.
The author puts together a complex and touching story. By focusing on two distinct periods of Jacob’s life, the listener is given an intensely rich picture of him as person and of the world he lives in. At first glance it would be easy to dismiss Jacob as being just another bitter and disgruntled old guy. By learning the back story of the pivotal part of his life spent with the circus, the listener comes to a deeper understanding of him as a man.
As a historic novel, this book also provides a richly descriptive portrayal of life in the circus in the 1930’s; a time and place that will never be repeated. We all have ideas of what the circus is like, and what the Depression might have been like, but putting the two together is something completely unique.
Overall, both narrators are excellent. Older Jacob is brilliant. The narration perfectly portrays his gruff exterior and thoughtfully conflicted interior. He comes across as being completely authentic. Young Jacob is also quite good. My only criticism is with how he does the female voices. They’re just a little off the mark, and this is sometimes distracting.
I've listened to around 20 books and this has got to be the best. I'd read the back cover and wasn't keen on reading about someone running away to join a circus, but a friend recommended it and I was hooked. It cleverly switches between the main character at aged 23 and 93. I found the 23 year old story informative and powerful, and the 93 year old poignant and sensitive - I was close to tears after one of the elderly man's disappointments. Fantastic!
Beautiful story, and beautifully narrated. Easy listen, but full of creative ideas, thoughtful perspectives, and very touching. I've recommended it to a few friends, who all loved it, so it is a good sign, which gave me confidence to write my first ever review! Fantastic listen for super busy and bored alike, as you'll have something to look forward to!
I was inspired to read this book after seeing the movie. As ever - the book outstripped the movie by miles. I loved the format, swapping back and forth between an old man's sad current existence and a first person account of his past life. Having two different readers absolutely worked. I found it moving and totally gripping. Very well written by a master story teller.
I loved this - I laughed and I cried and didn't want it to end. When it did I started it from the beginning and listened all over again. I think it was even better second time around. Recommend with a capital R.
Unusual subject matter and although there is no great emotional depth to this story it was absolutely fascinating to learn the background detailed history of the touring American Circus Trains during the depression. I really enjoyed it so much I want to see the film now for illustrative purposes!
"A beautifully crafted tale."
Quite simply my favorite Audible listen so far. A well crafted story with evocative description of a bygone era providing a rich backdrop for an engaging tale played out by a satisfyingly varied array of characters. This all given added interest through the story being relayed via the reminiscences of the protagonist in the final years of his life but still with some fire in his belly! An unexpected, and therefore all-the-more rewarding insight into, and perspective on how one deals with the process of aging. For me, this beautifully told story ticks all the right boxes and thus is highly recommended.
"Leaves you with a warm glow"
Definitely the best audio book so far for me. A good oldfashioned brilliantly-crafted novel, read in perfect character by the two narrators. Will make you laugh and cry unless you are very hard-boiled. OK yes young Jacob is maybe a bit too perfect and secondary characters are disposed of rather summarily once their part is over but I defy anyone with an ounce of romance in their soul not to be totally absorbed by this fascinating tale of life, love and death in a 30s American travelling train circus. Equally suitable for a 15 year old or a 90 year old and everyone inbetween as long as they are not shocked by a little swearing and two scenes of a sexual nature.
"A wonderful book"
I cannot think of anything I didn't like about this audio book. Plot, narration, characters, elephant - all wonderful. Both parts, the contemporary one and the main story set in the 30s, are fascinating in their own right. Together they tell a great story that kept me gripped.
I read the reviews, which were full of praise. But this book is lacking in story and the American accents are very hard to understand at times. I didn't enjoy it and gave up half way through.
Great characters but Rosie best of all - a Polish elephant. I really cared about the characters and of course the elephant. Best download this year and in the sale!
Report Inappropriate Content