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 really enjoyed listening to this book. the story was good, captivating even if it was simple. it was the kind of story you thought about in between sessions, it would stick in the mind and good moments stuck with you. the narration was really some of the best i've ever experienced. i was distracted by the intro music at parts though, and it was really hard to focus on the story in those times. otherwise superbly done.
This book is well done. I like the author's transition between the elder and the younger, and the narration is excellent in making it easy to discern between the characters.
My only complaint is that I'd have liked to continue the stories of both the younger and the older protagonist. When the story ends for the younger, I wanted very much to have some type of resolution to hear the rest of his story. That was somewhat resolved through the story, but the ending with the elder character left me wanting a bit more -- I did feel that ultimate end was somewhat unrealistic as well, although I won't go into the details of that so as to avoid spoiling the story for anyone. I have to admit, I didn't see it coming until the very end. On the other hand, the fact that I wanted more is probably an indication that the characters were well developed since I didn't want to let them go.
The prose is good and the story is well written. The characters are engaging and you find that you really like the ones you should and that you at least empathize with the bad guys, although sometimes I admit thinking that they got what they deserved.
This book is has themes and a story line mature enough for adults to enjoy, and yet there's not much in there that would shock your grandmother. While there is the occasional coarse word that may be unacceptable if you're listening in the car with pre-teens, it's not so much that I would have reservations about listening to it with my kids OR my grandmother in the car. I recommend it.
Phat Girl Slim
I bought this book in hard copy, but have not had time to sit down and read it. When I saw it in the "Great First Listens" category, I decided to go ahead and get it. I am SO glad I did! I was hooked within the first 2 minutes. The story is fantastic and the narration is superb!
There were no slow moments in this book. Each chapter left me eager for the next one. Sara Gruen is a truly gifted writer. I could "see" the scenes and feel the emotions as I listened to the story. Having the 2 perspectives, read by two different narrators, was absolutely brilliant and it turned a great story into a FABULOUS TALE! I really enjoyed the different voices David LeDoux used for each of the circus characters: He gave each one a unique personality without being corny or overly dramatic. His rendition of Uncle Al was my favorite!! John Randolph Jones was AWESOME as the 90 (or 93!) year old Jacob! The way he paced his breathing and tone was pitch perfect. I'm going to make time to read my hard copy of this book: It really is a GREAT FIRST LISTEN and I know it will be excellent to read!
I found this surprisingly dull. Or at least, lacking any surprise... this is the story of a guy who joins the circus during the depression. Now imagine all the quirkiness that ensues. That's the book. The story is cobbled together from all the folklore about circuses - life on the train, dealing with animals and shady characters. Throw in some unrequited love, and you have yourself a cheap novel. This is pure plot, and not a particularly interesting plot at that. The characters are wholly unremarkable and flat - there's no real clear motivation or mystery. The people don't change, they continue to be surprised and excited by the same things. By the end of the book (no spoiler, don't worry...) you really have no idea who the narrator is, except that he had an adventure early in his life.
I didn't find anything offensive. The scene that seems to offend anyone is right in the first chapter or two and seems there merely to tell you "the circus is crazy! you never know what's going to happen next!" but really you do know, and really this is the raciest thing that happens in the whole book. You know that there will be an elephant, and that they'll travel by train, and that someone will get hurt and that there will be a speakeasy that is raided, and that moonshine is bad for you, that there will be some hazing for new members of the circus, and that there are always tensions between the performers and the working men, and that lions are scary and monkeys make great companions while doing the rounds.
About the only interesting character is August. And even his background ends up being a total cop-out on the author's part. Yawn.
This was my first audio book. I rather liked the narrator for the old man, and was less fond of the younger man's narrator. However, I thought the book was an interesting topic - the Circus. I was glued to the book, listening wherever I had time but seriously the ending pissed me off. I won't give it away but I felt majorly let down when I finally reached it.
A lovely plot - wonderful character development, a masterful weaving of history and present seen through the main character's eyes at the start of his life and his later life. I wanted more!
Disabled Alaskan reader of mostly mysteries historical. Also vampires, werewolves, things that go bump in the night! Some scifi and fantasy!
There are certainly parts of the book that people could find offensive but the book is about circus people during the Depression. People didn't have the Internet nor did they have Playboy or whatever. Alot of these shows had the hootchie cooch tent and the men who separate from their wives and they would go in and see the show and it was a break from the hum drum lives. Everything is so PC now but then it was different, people who were different, like little people etc the only way many of them could make a living was at a circus or a carnival, many of them, their parents would sell them to the circus or carnival, it was a different time. It is a great story, very real to life for example the old man Camel ends up sick from drinking bootleg liquor. The prohibition was going on and the US government had companies poisoning the industrial alcohol that bootleggers would get and sell. People with money could go places that smuggled their booze in form Canada but poor people drank whatever they could get their hands on, just like alcoholics today often buy cough syrup. Also redlighting was something that happened, that would be when they had to many hands and not enough money, they's kick people out of the train while it was moving. I think it's a shame when people want everything to be PC, like the recent rewriting of Huckleberry Finn.
Decided to give this one a listen because it is being made into a movie. Really enjoyed the story (although there are some explicit parts), but was blown away by the narration! David LeDoux was the most impressive narrator I have listened to yet. And paired with John Randolph Jones, who touched me deeply, I finished this book changed in a way I don't know if the author intended. I will never pass an elderly person again with out hearing Jones' voice and knowing I could make a difference.
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