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Water for Elephants Audiobook

Water for Elephants

Why we think it’s a great listen: Some books are meant to be read; others are meant to be heard – Water for Elephants falls into the second group, and is one of the best examples we have of how a powerful performance enhances a great story. 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.
Regular Price:$24.46
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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 (16664 )
5 star
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3 star
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Overall
4.4 (8858 )
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3 star
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2 star
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Story
4.5 (8780 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 07-07-11
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 07-07-11 Member Since 2015

    I am brutally honest. Popular, love everything they read, reviewers are scared to go neg. and risk their ranking. It's your money!!!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3026
    ratings
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    935
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    17
    Overall
    "Just Plain Good Story"

    You could listen to this for it's historical perspective, living in a circus, living during the great depression, living in a nursing home. I liked it because it was just a plain old good story. I listened not because I wanted to know what was going to happen, but because it was a pleasure to listen to what was happening as it was happening. I liked the characters, I felt for the characters, I hurt when they did and was happy when they where. This seems to have been advertised as a romance, which has chased away the men readers. I believe this to be a huge mistake, as it has very little romance. The manly men will appreciate the rough and tough guys who survive living on a Show. I also want to mention that the narration in this audible is perfect. At times I was disappointed in the main character's cowardliness, but that is probably more true to life.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt east bentleigh, VIC, Australia 02-12-10
    Matt east bentleigh, VIC, Australia 02-12-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
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    14
    5
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    2
    0
    Overall
    "Wonderful!"

    a great story and beautifully narrated. loved the two voices of jacob and all of the characters through the book. sometimes was hard to listen to the cruelty to rosie and imagining the awful lives of some of the animals especially the polar bear locked in a cage in the heat of a sweltering summer in america.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Louisville, CO, USA 11-21-09
    Patti Louisville, CO, USA 11-21-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
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    49
    3
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    1
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    Overall
    "How Delightful!"

    What a pleasant surprise. As a lover of historical fiction, I really enjoyed this story set mostly in Depression-era America about, of all things, a young verterinarian who joins a circus. The two narrators, the young and elderly version of the main character, add depth to an already-captivating story. The book is also a tale of life and adventure on the American railroad. This was the era that my parents grew up in and I could hear my father in the pitch-perfect voice of the older Jacob.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marius Irene, South Africa 08-19-09
    Marius Irene, South Africa 08-19-09 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    511
    ratings
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    186
    115
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    0
    Overall
    "Really Good, just misses Great"

    I enjoyed this immensely. The two narrators David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones do a fine job. The story flows well, and the atmosphere is strong, and authentic. The story loses a star for two reasons: First, despite Jacob's good nature, he has a complete lack of self-awareness, and the author seems unaware of this. Second, the story ultimately ignores Rosie. I'll say no more, or I'd be a spoiler.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandy Sheboygan, WI, USA 02-19-09
    Sandy Sheboygan, WI, USA 02-19-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    3
    1
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    0
    0
    Overall
    "A Fabulous Read"

    This book was recommended to me a year or more ago and when I recently joined audible I found it on the top picks list and thought "a sign". I love to listen while working out on the treadmill. Suffice to say this was such "a fabulous read" I would ADD time just to listen longer. I will treasure it always!

    5 of 7 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
    1819
    ratings
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    211
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    2
    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!

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maria Adkins 10-23-06 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    26
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    Overall
    "fast-paced historical fiction"

    This book revolves around a veterinarian named Jacob Jankowski who fell on hard times during the Great Depression and ended up joining the circus as the exotic animal veterinarian. The book switches back and forth from the 93 year-old Jacob to his memories of his youth. It was a fascinating look at life in the circus – from its spectacular shows with animals and acrobats, romances and friendships, to the terrifying way this ring leader treated animals, workers who were thrown from the train when not needed, and the extreme poverty of the 1930’s. You will learn a lot about elephants, and the elephant, Rosie, definitely stole every scene she was in. At the end of the book I wanted to reach out to the old man Jacob and hug him. The narration was perfect.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hollis Laguna beach, ca 10-14-06
    Hollis Laguna beach, ca 10-14-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    4
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    "loved this book"

    We listened to this great book on a long road trip. I really liked the way it went back and forth from current time when the main character was in a nursing home (very poignant) to when he was young and his experience in the circus. Great character development and story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    YoginiZora Maine 10-12-06
    YoginiZora Maine 10-12-06 Listener Since 2005

    yoginizora

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "exquisite and riveting"

    I concur with the many 5-star reviews for this audiobook: it's sensational. The two narrators bring an already exquisite story to life. Whoever chose these two talented readers deserves a place in the Audiobook Hall of Fame.

    Although the book it's around 12 hours, it unfolded well (only rarely did I feel impatient with its pace). I found myself looking for any excuse to get in the car or to go for a walk, just to listen to another chapter of this book. I was surprised by its poignant treatment of aging, as well as the twisting plot that chugged along to the dissonant ending. Highly recommended!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 09-30-06
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 09-30-06 Member Since 2013

    Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    5
    Overall
    "Pleasantly Surprised"

    Wow! This one's a keeper. I really wasn't sure if I should take a chance on this book as the description of it did not really appeal to me. I was just overwhelmed with the positive feedback from fellow listeners, so I thought I would give it a try....and am I ever glad I did! This was one of my all time favorite listens.
    The narration was excellent, the story line was interesting and moving. I could have done with a little less animal abuse, but I can see why it was written in, it was necessary to bring part of the story together.
    Recommended Highly! You won't be disappointed!

    5 of 7 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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