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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 (16868 )
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4.5 (8967 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Jeff Millville , NJ, USA 06-08-06
    Jeff Millville , NJ, USA 06-08-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good, but a little to sweet"

    Very well read. I was hoping it wouldn't be a chick book, and I was pleasantly supprised. I think the voice helps give it a little realness. Somewhat akin to The Time Travelor's Wife in scope and theme, this book is an excelent summer read, or listen, whatever the case may be.

    30 of 41 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Le Center, MN, USA 04-23-09
    Julie Le Center, MN, USA 04-23-09 Member Since 2010
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    "Who doesn't love the circus?"

    So how could I resist a story with a circus, a love story, and a right good curmudgeon? I couldn't. This is a wonderful book which hasn't recieved nearly enough attention.

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tricia - Audible NJ, United States 04-13-12
    Tricia - Audible NJ, United States 04-13-12 Member Since 2010

    Constantly in search of the perfect listen.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful!"

    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.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kindle Customer 12-24-11 Member Since 2011

    I am a voracious reader who enjoys the YA, Paranormal, Romance, Business and Personal Development genres. Look out for my reviews!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Classic Unlikely Love Story"
    What did you love best about Water for Elephants?

    Can I say


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Water for Elephants?

    The moment when Marlena's schizophrenic husband strikes her and Jacob steals her out of the circus camp ... It's the moment that her husband loses her, and I think he knows he won't get her back.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I honestly can't pick one .... maybe when the menagerie escaped was my fave. The narration of this was so good that, as I listened, I felt I was in the midst of the stampede, stripes and snorts whirling around me.


    If you could take any character from Water for Elephants out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    I would invite the young and old Jacobs. They are both idealistic and insightful, in spite of their years and because of them, respectively.


    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 02-10-07
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 02-10-07 Member Since 2006

    Addicted to Audible!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1887
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    Overall
    "listened twice"

    This is the first audiobook I have listened to twice. It was truly my favorite book of the year. I selected it for my book club and everyone was unanimous in their praise for the story.Jacob at 90 "or 93" touched us all and made us think about how we treat our old. The story of young Jacob was fast moving and kept my attention. I think this book was greatly enhanced by the excellent perfomances of the 2 readers. I have recommended Water for Elephants to everyone I know. Dont miss this one! It' a gem!

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Claudia H Philadelphia, PA 03-25-16
    Claudia H Philadelphia, PA 03-25-16 Member Since 2014
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    "I decided early on, this is a tear jerker"
    What did you like best about this story?

    How much I reacted to the story, I felt very committed to the whole thing, the narrators and the plot really dragged me in.


    What about David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ’s performance did you like?

    The combination of the older voice and the younger voice was amazing. That is really what sold it for me, I was extremely impressed and enjoyed it a great deal.


    Any additional comments?

    A very well written story and a very well done performance.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Ryder 01-08-16
    M. Ryder 01-08-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Absolutely Fantastic!"

    Loved it! Hesitated in purchasing it because thought the story would go into way too much detail about circus life, but I was terribly wrong! The story was heart-warming, and both made me laugh and cry throughout its entirety. Focused on relationships between humans as well as between humans and animals, and also gave me greater insight into the abuse and poor treatment of those involved with the circus. This narration was incredible! Both performers delivered outstanding portrayals of Jake at 23 and 93. Have listened to almost 200 audiobooks, and can honestly say that I have never before heard such strong narration. Bought book at a discount, but would definitely purchase for full price.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SyllyMo Diamond Bar, CA United States 12-07-15
    SyllyMo Diamond Bar, CA United States 12-07-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Beautiful Story"

    Love love loved the narrators. This book came to life by them. Thank you for such a good read (listen).

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hayley Green 11-23-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Magical"

    This is a story that you need to listen to. The narrators take you from wherever you are into their lives. Simply fantastic story and story telling

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Regina-Audible USA 12-21-13
    Regina-Audible USA 12-21-13 Member Since 2010

    Audible editor and data evangelist. Lover of fiction, classics, thrillers, celebrity memoirs, and quirky teen novels.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Perfection"

    There's no question why Water for Elephants ranks at the top of the AudibleEssentials list. It's one of those books that comes alive through the voice of the narrators. John Randolph Jones gives a realistically haunting performance as Jacob Jankowski in his nineties while David LeDoux brings passion and innocence to the younger Jacob as he ventures through the fascinating world of a Prohibition-Era circus.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Ms. F. Haselden
    12/2/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Too difficult to understand - I gave up"
    Would you try another book written by Sara Gruen or narrated by David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ?

    I would not buy another book narrated by this narrator. The old man gruff voice was meant to be characterful, but it turned out to be almost impossible to understand. When selecting a narrator, it's important to choose someone who can both provide characterful voice but clear diction. This narrator was nearly impossible to understand. Gruff, deep, slurring his words. I couldn't enjoy the book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • KE
    Prenton, United Kingdom
    8/23/15
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    "Marvellous!"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rozemarijn
    8/20/15
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Predictable and one dimensional characters"

    Disapointingingly predictable story where the one big event is revealed at the beginning. Simply and sentimental in a cheap way. No enchantment or captivating story. The narrators where difficult to understand and acted without feeling. The characters were dumb and didnt develop. It became pretty annoying. If you want a simple story without many surprises and with false sentiments, this is your book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs W.
    7/23/15
    Overall
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    Story
    "Brilliant build up"

    Could not stop listening, story captivates and totally enchants, you can see the 'big top' in the story - pure pleasure!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. P. D. Selman
    Kent, U.K.
    7/14/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A life less ordinary"
    If you could sum up Water for Elephants in three words, what would they be?

    Loss and self-discovery.
    (Not sure if that counts as three words or four but what the heck...)


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    My favourite character was the protagonist, Jacob. Other reviewers have criticised this character for being too perfect but I have to disagree. He's often painfully naïve and is willing to have a romantic relationship with a married woman; I'd call those character flaws. I like him because he tries his best to do the right thing and I can certainly relate to his feeling of being completely adrift and out of his depth a lot of the time.


    Have you listened to any of David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    This is the first time I've listened to any of their work. They both do a cracking job of bringing this story to life.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    While the book is not (nor is it meant to be) laugh out loud funny, it did make me chuckle a few times. It tells the tale of a man's life (two significant portions of it, anyway) and, as such, it encompasses a range of different emotions.
    The ending left me with a deep feeling of melancholy.


    Any additional comments?

    This book manages to capture both the old-fashioned magic of the circus and the darker side of the business without ever becoming preachy. No mean trick. I'd definitely read more books by Gruen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Aline Stokes
    12/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Delightful"
    What made the experience of listening to Water for Elephants the most enjoyable?

    The story was unusual, and the performance was good


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The main character (I finished listening some time ago so I can't actually remember his name)


    What does David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    The voices and accents brought the story to life.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    None- I love the choice of title and wouldn't want to somehow diminish it with a tag line that might give more away.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Wendy
    Ramsgate, United Kingdom
    11/4/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A mixed bag"

    I liked Water for Elephants, but I wasn't blown away by it. The sections featuring the elderly Jacob were brilliant and made me think a lot about continuity of the self at different life stages. The plot of the main story was fairly engaging, albeit predictable and the book depicted circus life in the depression believably enough for me, not having experienced either. Having said that, I just didn't care enough about the human characters to buy into any of the tension and if I had been reading on paper, I'm not sure if have felt compelled to finish the book. It was nicely read by both narrators.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs. S. Mccarra
    Scotland
    8/16/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Life is so much more than the present."

    The scene is one that fascinates most of us - running away and joining a circus. This story tells of the highs and humour and pulls no punches when it comes to the blacker goings on in the train traveling circus of the prohibition era. What brought it particularly to life was the narration of the nonagenarian. The old man having been through such eventful times and now in a nursing home with his family forgetting about him. This was beautifully read with such feeling that it reminds you that people are not just what you see now but made up of their multifaceted past.
    I am a regular audio book listener but only a very few strike me like this when the story and narrator/s come together to make something so beautiful even when listening to the more horrific events of the time. Life is so much more than the present.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • sarah
    United Kingdom
    7/29/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A beautiful and engrossing tale!"
    What about David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ’s performance did you like?

    very well performed, easy voices to listen to


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    yes, I had a tear at the end from the luck and kindness shown to Jacob that he no longer had to endure the emptiness of old age


    Any additional comments?

    A beautifully written book! I thought it may be a bit “dark” or full of sadness but I was wrong, its an engrossing read with love, torment, tragedy and heart warming happiness……all at the circus.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    7/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Unusual love story"
    What made the experience of listening to Water for Elephants the most enjoyable?

    The description of circus life before it was politically incorrect to have animals at the circus.


    Which character – as performed by David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones – was your favourite?

    The main character as an old man.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I was disturbed at the cruelty to some of the performers and staff as well as the animals.


    Any additional comments?

    A love story with a difference.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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