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Water for Elephants Audiobook

Water for Elephants

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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 (17237 )
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4.4 (9382 )
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4.6 (9303 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Cristina H NYC - USA 05-29-11
    Cristina H NYC - USA 05-29-11 Member Since 2016

    Cristina

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    176
    9
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    1
    Overall
    "Didn't Realize This Was Sentimental Dreck"

    I downloaded this book because it was so popular, but I didn't realize it was a super sappy love story. The storyline gets to be ridiculous and the premise is unbelievable. The female lead is completely one dimensional and I don't know why the lead character loves her, let alone likes her.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelli Spencer, IA, United States 03-15-11
    Kelli Spencer, IA, United States 03-15-11 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "I guess I expected too much."

    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.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M.W. 10-03-09
    M.W. 10-03-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    246
    ratings
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    389
    205
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    15
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    Overall
    "An Enjoyable Book"

    I enjoyed listening to this book. There were some twists and turns, but for the most part it was just a well told story.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Valerie Charlotte, NC, USA 10-03-09
    Valerie Charlotte, NC, USA 10-03-09 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
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    55
    6
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    "You Must Get This Book!"

    Simply wonderful. Fantastic from beginning to end.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sara walkersville, md, United States 08-23-08
    Sara walkersville, md, United States 08-23-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
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    113
    11
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    "A story about love, life, elephants, and history."

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hui-Chang 07-15-08
    Hui-Chang 07-15-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    73
    2
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    "Moving"

    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!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kdeems Alaska 06-05-08
    Kdeems Alaska 06-05-08 Listener Since 2006

    Alaska Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
    30
    ratings
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    24
    2
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    "Excellent!"

    This was the best narrated audio book I've heard. It was narrated by two people who played different ages of the main character's life. Well done!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura 04-09-08
    Laura 04-09-08 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    114
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    365
    27
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    5
    3
    Overall
    "Best Story On Earth"

    From the characters to the vivid descriptions to the wide range of emotions, this book had me mesmerized. The descriptions are powerful and moving. You see each of the different character perspectives of the so clearly, some of your own perceptions may change. You may even learn a few things along the way as I did. It's no wonder this audiobook was chosen as the Best of 2006.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret Libertyville, IL, USA 04-05-08
    Margaret Libertyville, IL, USA 04-05-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    24
    4
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    "Loved this story"

    The story was beautiful written and extremely engaging, it was a great listen and really enjoyed the voices of the two readers.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 04-14-11
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 04-14-11 Member Since 2010

    Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3226
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    4
    Overall
    "How is this going to be a movie?"

    Several reviewers have mentioned a comparison of this story to Sophie's Choice, and the connection is obvious in the triangular relationship of the 3 main characters. But don't assume that this comparison implies the same quality of story and character development as the previous (far superior) work. Sara Gruen has not created characters that live and breathe. In fact, Marlena barely even speaks - her story (such as it is) is summarized for her by Jacob. She wimpers, she blushes, she covers her mouth with her hand, and she crosses her legs and bounces her foot up and down. I found it odd that a female author could not find a way to give life or even voice to any of the female characters, while working so hard to describe every carnal detail of the men. Who was she trying to impress? The elephant didn't make an appearance until the second half of the story, and had a surprisingly small roll. While the "Old Jacob" portion of the story was somewhat touching, I found that it slowed down what little momentum the circus story had. I did find the behind the scenes of a circus interesting, but from an outsider's point of view. The lack of life of the characters never really let me in. Knowing that the movie is coming out soon and that Reese Witherspoon is playing the lead, I wonder what she has to draw from to create a memorable performance - she certainly hasn't got much to go on from the book.

    9 of 15 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 Mills
    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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