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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 (16561 )
5 star
 (9497)
4 star
 (4713)
3 star
 (1599)
2 star
 (439)
1 star
 (313)
Overall
4.4 (8761 )
5 star
 (5162)
4 star
 (2301)
3 star
 (903)
2 star
 (244)
1 star
 (151)
Story
4.5 (8683 )
5 star
 (5845)
4 star
 (2061)
3 star
 (551)
2 star
 (121)
1 star
 (105)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Kathy United States 09-29-06
    Kathy United States 09-29-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    324
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1437
    53
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    10
    6
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great Listen"

    Wonderfully crafted story, colorful believable characters, very well performed. I look forward to this author's next book

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adrienne Camp Connell, CA, United States 09-15-06
    Adrienne Camp Connell, CA, United States 09-15-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    121
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    184
    48
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    1
    Overall
    "Disappointing!"

    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erin Calgary, AB, Canada 08-23-06
    Erin Calgary, AB, Canada 08-23-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Great!"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 08-23-06
    Robert 08-23-06 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "A Book You'll Remember"

    This was the most enjoyable read and listen of the summer. The two narrators work well. The story moves at a good pace and a has satisfying ending.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michele 08-18-06
    Michele 08-18-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    393
    21
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Place on your NEXT LISTEN!"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Bergh NH 08-18-06
    P. Bergh NH 08-18-06 Member Since 2013

    There's always time for reading

    HELPFUL VOTES
    107
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    246
    23
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    "A GREAT old-fashioned read"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Schumacher 08-17-06

    Bobshoe

    HELPFUL VOTES
    20
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    60
    18
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    "Wonderful Informative and Uplifting"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kary greenwood village , CO, USA 08-14-06
    Kary greenwood village , CO, USA 08-14-06 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    15
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "A++++++++++"

    loved every minute....highly recommend!! The narrators were excellent and the story is not to be missed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra Philomath, OR, United States 08-05-06
    Sandra Philomath, OR, United States 08-05-06 Member Since 2004

    I like unabridged novels. When I first joined Audible, many were abridged. That has changed. Non-fiction, politics, bios are favorites

    HELPFUL VOTES
    128
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    55
    29
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    4
    0
    Overall
    "Sweet"

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PA Law 08-02-06
    PA Law 08-02-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    145
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    152
    24
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    16
    0
    Overall
    "Wonderful story, and well read"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Julie
    woking, United Kingdom
    2/22/13
    Overall
    "Excellent"

    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..

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Lorna Chester
    UK
    1/26/13
    Overall
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • john
    middlesbrough, United Kingdom
    1/16/13
    Overall
    "a lovely read"

    An excellent book which is interesting and compassionate but unfortunately the ending seemed rather rushed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • K
    Bristol, United Kingdom
    12/29/12
    Overall
    "Suprisingly good"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tim
    United Kingdom
    12/26/12
    Overall
    "A great listern"

    A wonderful story which fired my imaginating made even better by first class readers. Fantastic

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • CantVal
    SE England
    11/23/12
    Overall
    "Wonderful book"

    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

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Michele
    Cranleigh, United Kingdom
    4/29/12
    Overall
    "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

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Fiona
    4/14/12
    Overall
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Maren
    Cheadle, Stockport, United Kingdom
    10/27/11
    Overall
    "Great Narrator(s)"

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Ann
    Haverfordwest, United Kingdom
    6/5/11
    Overall
    "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

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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