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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 (13307 )
5 star
 (7418)
4 star
 (3899)
3 star
 (1338)
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 (377)
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 (275)
Overall
4.3 (5804 )
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Story
4.5 (5730 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
 (425)
2 star
 (96)
1 star
 (81)
Performance
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  •  
    Janet Crystal River, FL, USA 06-03-07
    Janet Crystal River, FL, USA 06-03-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "memorable"

    memorable in a sea of sameness.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tiana Medford, MA, United States 05-31-07
    tiana Medford, MA, United States 05-31-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Wow!"

    I loved this story and I loved the narration. Usually I delete a story off my Ipod after I am done but I've kept this one for months because it was so beautiful. The voices were outstanding. This was the best narration I've heard. The plot line was great. I loved the back and forth between the main character in his 20s vs. the main characer in his 80s. It was so powerful and I was deeply engrossed in the story in both time periods. This is everything that an audio book should be even down to the music that plays in the background.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana Durham, NC, USA 05-30-07
    Diana Durham, NC, USA 05-30-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "delightful!"

    I have listened to Water for Elephants three times since downloading it, and I'm sure I will enjoy it again. It's an absolutely delightful look inside a circus in the 1930s, read brilliantly by two different narrators. It is easy to keep track of whether you are in Jacob's youth or old age because of the young/old narrator switches. The cast of characters includes a dwarf clown with a dog named Queenie as his best friend, an old crippled drunk, and of course Rosie the elephant. I ended up caring so much about Jacob, I was sad when the story was over.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alix Houston, TX, United States 05-29-07
    Alix Houston, TX, United States 05-29-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    144
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Loved it!!"

    I was a little skeptical about this one because of the circus theme, I thought it might be cheesy. However, this was a very well written book and extremely enjoyable to listen to. The characters are full of color and I could actually picture them in my mind. I would very much recommend this to anyone whether they like circuses or not.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Spooner Loveland, OH 05-24-07
    Andy Spooner Loveland, OH 05-24-07 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    180
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    117
    24
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    10
    0
    Overall
    "Enjoyable love story, but..."

    Nice love story. Someone implied it had similarities to "The Time Traveler's Wife," which is why I downloaded it, but I couldn't find the similarity. Not exactly a page-turner for me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzanne Newmarket, ON, Canada 05-23-07
    Suzanne Newmarket, ON, Canada 05-23-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Awesome"

    This book will make you laugh , and cry...it is such a different setting that most books - but it is a great story. And after it you will probably want a pet Elephant for yourself :-)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Lansing, MI, USA 05-21-07
    Julie Lansing, MI, USA 05-21-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    2
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    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Interesting"

    Gives great insight into what circuses are really like. The characters are distinct and are memorable. The author paints a picture of the various scenes and you feel like you're there with them. Great listen!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane M. White Weston, MA USA 05-15-07
    Jane M. White Weston, MA USA 05-15-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    4
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    0
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    Overall
    "I loved it"

    Understanding the frustration of living in a 93 year old body is not something I've read about. I also knew nothing about the circus during the 1930s depression. This work of fiction gives great insights into both, in a fabulously entertaining way. The narration was a major enhancement to the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benjamin Kailua, HI, United States 05-11-07
    Benjamin Kailua, HI, United States 05-11-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    222
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Great read for just about anyone"

    This is not a book I would normally pick but it was fantastic. Just about any reader will enjoy this book. Great story, narration that brings it right to life, and fun from start to end!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert West Monroe, LA, USA 05-09-07
    Robert West Monroe, LA, USA 05-09-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Life is short"

    Really enjoyed the two narrators of different ages. Made all the difference and showed a dimension sometimes missed in a cold reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 921-930 of 1083 results PREVIOUS1929394109NEXT
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.

    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 53 results PREVIOUS126NEXT

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