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Water for Elephants | [Sara Gruen]

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

4.3 (13660 )
5 star
 (7608)
4 star
 (3998)
3 star
 (1379)
2 star
 (393)
1 star
 (282)
Overall
4.3 (6127 )
5 star
 (3452)
4 star
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3 star
 (693)
2 star
 (183)
1 star
 (119)
Story
4.5 (6047 )
5 star
 (3886)
4 star
 (1529)
3 star
 (447)
2 star
 (99)
1 star
 (86)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Michael Orange, CA, USA 07-21-07
    Michael Orange, CA, USA 07-21-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    82
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    60
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "How not to age gracefully"

    Buy this book. There, the real question is answered but you want details? Fine, take a listen to a story that gives depth and color to anyone's life who starts young and ends up wondering how they got old and didnt notice. Listen to a story about running away to the circus and how a young man got a lifetime of lessons in the real world over some short months. The descriptions of the life in a circus and the characters who lived it are impressive and a joy to listen to. By the end of the story, you will be completely enthralled by the central character and his life story and it will, not might, it WILL cause you to rethink how you treat grand dad in you own life. You can easily lose yourself in the story as it flows around the plot. The prose is well written and the use of two narrators provides an excellent verbal presentation of a young man and his much older self. This book is one of the best narrated stories I have heard in the past three years of using Audible and really makes the listening a real joy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amyable 07-16-07
    Amyable 07-16-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    13
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Just loved it!"

    You won't be dissapointed!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ed 07-14-07
    Ed 07-14-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    374
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    2
    Overall
    "Wonderful"

    My wife read this and told me that it was one of the best books she has read. What she likes and what I like are usually like day and night.
    Well I also thought this book was one of best and
    did not want it to end. A wonderful read for all.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy Northbrook, IL, USA 07-07-07
    Nancy Northbrook, IL, USA 07-07-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    105
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    98
    30
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "I loved this book!"

    This was the best book I've listened to in a long time! It was definitely a book to listen to--the narration was superb. I don't think I would have enjoyed the book nearly as much if I had read it. I am old enough (past 70) to remember circuses in big tops, so perhaps it appealed to me more than it would a younger person. But for me it definitely deserves 5 stars!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joni lakeville, MN, USA 06-30-07
    Joni lakeville, MN, USA 06-30-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    "The best!"

    Best audiobook I have ever listened to. Two outstanding readers. I liked the dramatic music weaved into the book also.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Bloomington, IL, USA 06-27-07
    Diane Bloomington, IL, USA 06-27-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    14
    1
    Overall
    "Memorable, Memorable, Memorable"

    This is my favorite book AND audiobook. The story itself is so engaging. Then the narrators and voices lend such life to the story that you would swear you are watching a movie in your head. It's one of those that stays with you for so long after. And the unexpected bonus is how it reminds you that our elderly treasures have amazing stories to tell if anyone is willing to listen. I was so touched...............

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julia Wheeling 06-26-07 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    19
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "you should read it!"

    It is well written and interesting right to the end. i would definitly recommend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mariah north salt lake, UT, USA 06-26-07
    Mariah north salt lake, UT, USA 06-26-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
    Overall
    "Great Book !!"

    I LOVED this book !! The narration was fantastic. I was riveted from the very first sentence. I did not want it to end… I can not wait for her next book !!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Sun Prairie, WI, USA 06-25-07
    Barbara Sun Prairie, WI, USA 06-25-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
    Overall
    "An Excellent Listen"

    I found this book to be very well read and written. I enjoyed the protanganist very much both young and old.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eileen fletcher, NC, USA 06-19-07
    Eileen fletcher, NC, USA 06-19-07 Member Since 2003
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    16
    1
    Overall
    "loved this book"

    Great writing,wonderful readers,couldn't wait to get back in the car to listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 911-920 of 1095 results PREVIOUS1919293110NEXT
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  • 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.

    9 of 9 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.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    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.........

    6 of 6 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.

    5 of 5 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

    5 of 5 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

    5 of 5 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 !!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    Twickenham, United Kingdom
    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.

    5 of 5 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.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Madge
    Abergavenny, United Kingdom
    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.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 55 results PREVIOUS126NEXT

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