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)
While I didn't actively dislike this audio book, I wasn't really enchanted with it and expected much more because of the high ranking in audible favorites.
I did like certain story lines, like the Walter/Jacob relationship the and the Rosemary/Jacob (older Jacob) story line that was so realistic, other lines were touched on, like the Elephant and man connection or the horse and woman connection, but were left fairly sketchy and under developed.
I also felt that some of the descriptions, especially of the uncomfortably sexy type were overly graphic and didn't add much to my understanding of the characters and the story line. I even found myself fast forwarding through those spots.
I could easily imagine some of the scenes as if they were happening on a movie screen due to the abundance of incidental details and descriptive captures of the characters' movements and mannerisms.
So I won't say that it is a waste of time, but just that it is fairly easy and unchallenging and I prefer something possibly a little bit more "meaty" and interesting. I liked the ending.
This is definitely one of the cases where the audiobook format greatly helped in engaging the reader into the story.
I tried reading the paperback once. Put it down after the first chapter. Didn't really grab me that time.
I gave the story another chance after it was recommended by one of the podcasts I listen to. I figured that since I was going to get a free audiobook via the podcast promotion, it wouldn't hurt to try their recommendation. Was not disappointed at all.
Obviously I managed to get past the first chapter this time. Both narrators did an excellent job in portraying the old and young versions of the protagonist and helped contrast and distinguish their differences in character. Without it, I would have missed out on a great adventure set in Prohibition America involving the enigmatic institution that is the Circus.
If I were to gripe, it would just be that the female characters were limited in their emotional range/depth because the narrators are male. Otherwise it is an excellent audiobook production.
Recommended for people who like a good love story/adventure... and of course, elephants. ;)
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.
Tucked away in the beautiful mountains of New Mexico.
I enjoyed listening to this book. There were some twists and turns, but for the most part it was just a well told story.
As a video biographer, I talk to people in their 70's and 80's and hear all their wisdom. And see how we (the younger) all ignore it - in general. This book had the wonderful combination of the young account of what was going on "now" and the 90/93 year old man looking back with hindsight, nostalgia, and resignation. The narration was exquisite. A gem.
I listenned to this book and was loathed to turn if off; it was so absorbing. I was hooked right from the very beginning. Jacob at 90(93) gave me new insight to how the elderly see themselves and the world and made me sad to think of how we treat them. Sara Gruen has to be commended on her sesitivity.
This present-past contrasted story-telling style book makes it difficult to understand the story line for the first 1/4 of the book. As long as you can hang on until the story begins to gel, you will not want to turn it off until it is over. I only listen to my audio books in the car and for the last half of the book, I found myself sitting in my car in the driveway just so I could hear what was going to happen next. Great ending!!
I loved this from the moment I put it into the player. The narrator is excellent; conveys emotion and is easy to listen too. I loved the story although at times it is a little sad and traumatic. Fantastic, bravo. I can't wait for Sara Gruen to write another.
This was a great book about humanity's affect on humanity, animals, and history. I highly recommend this little book to anyone who ever wanted to join the circus.
I really enjoyed this book, not so much for the main story about Jacob's life in the circus, but for the very moving account of his life as an old man in a nursing home. Perhaps that's because the narrator who plays 90- or 93-year-old Jacob is absolutely marvellous. I was moved to tears at several points by his excellent acting/reading. Well worth picking up!
"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.
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.
"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.........
"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.
Unusual subject and not one I would normally choose. It made me laugh and cry. Brilliant. Do read it
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
"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 !!
"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.
"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.
"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.
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