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)
I can honestly say I haven't enjoyed a book so much in years. The narration was INCREDIBLE, I loved how it switched between the voices of Jacob at 23 and at 93.
An excellent read. You won't be disappointed.
The narration was lovely and I would listen to another book from either man. Sara Gruen thought up a great story, but some parts fell flat, and some characters were not well developed, ie Marlena.
Yes, I did enjoy it, especially the parts of the book told from the older man's viewpoint.
I had passed up on this book time and time again. I thought, "I"m not interested in a book about a circus!"
When it went on sale, I thought, "What the heck!" and went for it. What a great move! (brilliant on my part, lol)
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Didn't think I would and was pleasantly surprised. After reading the book, I watched the movie. The movie was pretty bad. The book was great!
My reviews are rather simple but only because I want to convey my impressions of a story. I leave summaries to the publisher. LOVE Audible!
I was reluctant to invest in this book but am I ever glad I did. The narration was incredible for the story. The story itself was so interesting and kept me guessing. I loved the way it was written and presented.
This is a unique tale, and I dare anyone not to get sucked into it immediately. I had it in my library for a long time and never listened to it...I don't know why. But once I finally gave it a chance I was hooked. The movie's got nothing on the book, as usual, although it does stay fairly true to the story. The narrators were both great, also, and I loved how he did different voices for the characters that really worked for them. Sometimes I don't like when narrators do character voices, but these were very good and fitting.
A book can get you out of your house, your town, even out of the country. I'm an avid reader believing reviews help find the good ones.
I really really wanted to like this book. It had a good storyline with interesting characters. However, I had a hard time staying focused on the story with all the animal cruelty. I am sure it happened back in those days but I didn’t want to relive it or hear it when I am trying to relax and enjoy a book. The story would have been excellent had it not been for all the details of what they fed these animals (made me sick for hours). Maybe I am just to sensitive for a book like this. I did make my way through it and if things like this don’t bother you then I bet you would like this book. The dual narration was wonderful and I loved the ending so much so it brought me to tears. Maybe if a book can get such strong reactions out of a person it's worth a five star rating? Me.... I'm giving it three stars.
I listen to books all the time, When I am driving, cleaning, cooking or doing anything quiet. I am AUDOBSESSED!
I am an entertainer, so I was naturally drawn to this book. I was spellbound by this story, and getting to be a fly on the wall so to speak in the world of the circus. I totally enjoyed every minute.
wonderful narration to go with this story line. An Audio hard to stop because you get caught up as if you were standing at the circus. Sad at times, but who knew what goes on behind the big top and after the circus is over. Circus life is anything but happy!
I am the host of the Brain Science Podcast and Books and Ideas. I have been a member of Audible since 2003. My favorite audiobooks are Sci Fi and nonfiction: especially history and biography
This book has everything it takes to make a great audiobook: wonderful characters, a compelling story, and memorable voice acting.
This book is one that is better in audio because of the voices of the narrators. The story alternates between the past (when the main character was young) and the present (where the same character is an elderly man in a nursing home). The two narrators capture this perfectly and make it easy to tell which part of the story one is listening to.
I think it would have been confusing to read this in print, especially if one set the book down, and came back some time later.
It has been over five years since I listened to this book and it remains one of my all-time favorites.
Born 1949, living in outback New South Wales, Australia.
A Beautiful Metaphor
Perhaps I'd compare it with the Irish novel A Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry and read by Stephen Hogan. Both are stories about the end of life and a review of the life that is ending. The one reader is used for two voices in the Secret Scripture - a 100 year old woman who has been locked up in a psychiatric hospital since she was 40. The other voice is that of her psychiatrist who has to review her due to the public outcry that some patients should never have been "held" as they are.
Water for Elephants has two readers. The younger Jacob Jankowski is read very well by David Le Doux. John Randolph Jones reads Jacob in the nursing home at age 90, or is it 93? Some voices are absolutely perfect for a character. This one is. I go and listen to him over and over.
The books themselves could not be more different. A Secret Scripture spans the entire 20th century Ireland. Water for Elephants uses the protagonist's adult life as a circus vet to present, in many ways, the difficulties involved in catering for the needs of the aged. Just like Water for Elephants. Geriatrics will always need more than you can give.
The use of the two voices is a wonderful vehicle to carry such complex stories.
No. Do they have others?
Oh yes. As I age and face a nursing home future, I understood Jacob's distress at never having proper food. But they have this mush that has all its nutrients. Jacob wants a pot roast. And something to bite and crunch. Many moments and the brilliant ending were the most poignant for me.
But the horror of horrors was the repeated beating of Rosie the elephant with a big hook that ripped through her leathery skin.
In the early 20th century there were more travelling circuses than there are now. People stayed working in them for their whole working lives. It's a whole separate culture, that circus existence.
Beautifully written and wonderfully read. The time shifts from the young Jacob to the old Jacob were easily melded.
"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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