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)
After reading all of the rave reviews I was prepared to love this book. I didn't hate it, but I can't say that I found it to be great literature. The relationship between the 3 main characters was reminiscent of Sophie's Choice, but that is the only thing it had in common with a truly great book. I thought the story was predictable and at times corny. Maybe I just expect more of books, but this is not one I would recommend.
I listened to this book while commuting home 3 hrs on the weekends and truly enjoyed it. The story was moving, funny and at times, shocking. Both narrators had rich voices that kept my attention and were appropriate for the main character. Even though I would go days without "tuning back in" to the story, it was easy to pick up where I left off as the book is so memorable.
Three minutes into this story you'll be hooked. The narrators (voices representing the main character at 90-something and 23-something) are excellent... The reading is with such skill you can "see" the story unfolding. The author has woven a story of flashbacks told by the 90 year old and a 1930's young man of 23-something. The story is set in a travelling circus - with some quirky characters and young loves. The animals, the big top, and the life and death of survival make this a riviting story. Worth all 5 stars and should be on your NEXT LISTEN.
There's always time for reading
This is a great book-- good storyline, interesting characters, great reader-- it is one of the few books that I've "sat down" and read the whole book in 2 or 3 seatings. Highly recommend it.
This is a trully engaging book from start to finish. A wonderful depictation of life aboard a circus train during the great depression. Unlike typical circus stories, this one does not go on about the death defying acts, but rather the animals, the people and a most touching love story. Memorable characters, fantastic readers (one for the younger and one for the older narrator). For those of you, like me, who want to know if after investing so much time in a book they will feel up or down after hearing it, this one is genuinely uplifting. I loved the endings to both the younger and older narrated stories. In fact, I so wanted the book to go on.
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.
This somewhat sentimental story is a clever novel that evokes emotions which endure through time. The narrators are magnificent, capturing the characters so well that you frequently forget that you're listening to a book--almost like watching a play. Highly recommended.
This is the first review I have written, but about the tenth book I have listened to. I felt compelled to share that this is the best book I have listened to by far. The narration of both ages made this book for me, I was hooked from the off, more so the excellent narrative of 93yr old Jacob. If you would like a nice easy to read listen to, then this is it. I will be watching the film in the next few days to compare but they will need to go a long way to beat the audio book. Now I've got to find my next commuting book..
"Really, really, really good"
A brilliant listen -I had no trouble with the accents -it's just a great listen. Don't hesitate to buy it.
"a lovely read"
An excellent book which is interesting and compassionate but unfortunately the ending seemed rather rushed.
I must admit, I only got this book as it was on offer and I knew they'd made a film from it, however, I was pleasantly surprised. The characters are likeable and you begin with a genuine interest to see what happens to them. And they are so utterly engaging, they continue to live long after the last page has been turned.
The writing is so seamless that the story sweeps you along with the tale, and there is a fantastic feeling when the circus comes to town.
Slushy and romantic? not so much, just a great adventure story.
"A great listern"
A wonderful story which fired my imaginating made even better by first class readers. Fantastic
Poignant and tender and full of insights into life's little and unthinking cruelties as well as the major, and to me at least, unknown cruelties of the depression era. It made me laugh and cry and both the writer and narrator did an excellent job of bringing both the old and young men to life, but it is the old man who will linger longest in my memory, I urge you to buy it there cannot be many folk who will not find their lives enriched by spending time with Jacob
"Must listen, junk the film and listen to this!"
The most lovely reading of this incredible book. Such perfect choice of readers, John Randolph Jones is incredible as the 90-93 year old Jacob. I am so pleased I heard this before I saw the film (which was dreadful). Please do yourself a favour and buy this audio book
"Welcome to the circus..."
Loved the two narrators, wish more books would employ this technique. Great story, interesting characters, unusual setting. Recommend reading, I know the book was a sellout last Mothers Day in Australia.
This book is so wonderfully read, its a joy! The story in my own personal opinion still a bit weak (therfore only 4-stars), but listeing to the well performed interpretation makes this book more than only recommendable. Get and listen to audiobook.
"Water for Elephants"
A real 5 star book All emotions-- sad, happy, suspense, drama, love, hate,. danger-- I could go on !! and a twist in the very last pages The naration of the young and old Jacob excellent
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