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)
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.
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.
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.
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 am a voracious reader who enjoys the YA, Paranormal, Romance, Business and Personal Development genres. Look out for my reviews!
Can I say
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.
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.
I would invite the young and old Jacobs. They are both idealistic and insightful, in spite of their years and because of them, respectively.
Addicted to Audible!
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!
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.
Love love loved the narrators. This book came to life by them. Thank you for such a good read (listen).
Audible editor and data evangelist. Lover of fiction, classics, thrillers, celebrity memoirs, and quirky teen novels.
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.
"Too difficult to understand - I gave up"
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.
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!
"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.
"Brilliant build up"
Could not stop listening, story captivates and totally enchants, you can see the 'big top' in the story - pure pleasure!
"A life less ordinary"
Loss and self-discovery.
(Not sure if that counts as three words or four but what the heck...)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The story was unusual, and the performance was good
The main character (I finished listening some time ago so I can't actually remember his name)
The voices and accents brought the story to life.
None- I love the choice of title and wouldn't want to somehow diminish it with a tag line that might give more away.
"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.
"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.
"A beautiful and engrossing tale!"
very well performed, easy voices to listen to
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
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.
"Unusual love story"
The description of circus life before it was politically incorrect to have animals at the circus.
The main character as an old man.
I was disturbed at the cruelty to some of the performers and staff as well as the animals.
A love story with a difference.
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