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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.
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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 (16114 )
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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Overall
4.4 (8366 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.5 (8283 )
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
 (103)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    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
    387
    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
    104
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    246
    23
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    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
    19
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    57
    17
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    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
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    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
    144
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    152
    24
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    15
    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
  •  
    Hiroshi TokyoJapan 02-11-10
    Hiroshi TokyoJapan 02-11-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Romantic, engaging"

    I like the stories about animals and I was caught by the events from the beginning

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Provo, UT, USA 03-21-08
    Carol Provo, UT, USA 03-21-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    29
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    4
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    0
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    Overall
    "Excellent but Explicit"

    Overall, I enjoyed this audio book very much. The writing style was rich, the story line interesting. The narrators were excellent and turned the book into a drama. It was like listening to an old time radio show. My objection is this: for those of us concerned with explicit sex in our reading material, there should be some kind of a warning. Although this book only had two raunchy scenes, this was enough to cause me to only give the book 4 stars instead of 5.

    12 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 10-02-13
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 10-02-13 Member Since 2015

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4773
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1449
    459
    FOLLOWERS
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    1223
    9
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Solidly Good, Not Great"

    This is a fine book, with a pleasant story and some nice characters. I particularly liked the ending and the narration was superior without being perfect. The settings for the story were mildly interesting and It was a very easy listen. Given the many great reviews I hoped for a wonderful and magical listen. This it was not. It was a nice modern novel, but for me that was it. The characters sometimes verged on almost becoming really interesting but then the scene ended, they never got me to laugh or cry, or even care very much.

    6 of 9 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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