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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 (17277 )
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4.4 (9419 )
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Story
4.6 (9341 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Tami 10-26-10
    Tami 10-26-10 Member Since 2014

    I discovered the joy of audiobooks several years ago when I got a job which is a 45 min drive one way. It continued to keep me mostly sane.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "A Great Tale"

    I don't write many reviews because not so many stories I listen to mean so much that I want to write one. This is an exception. I've not read Water for Elephants and I don't believe I will. My imagination is pretty good but it won't come as close as narrators David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones to recreating Jacob Jankowski's world. This isn't a complicated story and there aren't alot of twisting subplots. What it is, is a great tale told from either end of a man's life. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good story where the characters come alive and you can smell the circus. Bravo!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephanie St. Paul, MN, United States 10-19-10
    Stephanie St. Paul, MN, United States 10-19-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    4
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    Overall
    "Mediocre"

    John Randolph Jones' narration was the bright spot in this one. In the middle I found myself waiting for the end, not because I was enthralled, but more because I wanted to get on to my next book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bethann milwaukee, WI, United States 10-16-10
    bethann milwaukee, WI, United States 10-16-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    76
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    38
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    Overall
    "wow"

    What a gifted storyteller - the dual readers gave depth to the tale - this is definitely a novel worth listening to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Grace 10-16-10
    Jim Grace 10-16-10 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    596
    29
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    "A Winner!"

    My husband and I both loved, loved, loved this book! Beautifully written and perfectly read, especially the voice of the old man. I highly recommend this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sheets 10-07-10
    Sheets 10-07-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    57
    12
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    "Great Listen!"

    I LOVED this book. Great story, characters, ending, everything! Truly entertaining. I couldn't wait for my next car trip to hear more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kacy Nashville, TN, United States 10-05-10
    Kacy Nashville, TN, United States 10-05-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    3
    3
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    "Worth the Credit"

    This book was extremely enjoyable to listen to. Both narrators did a great job creating the persona of Jacob. Although the main plot line is a love story, the better aspect of the story was a look into how quickly life passes us by and what is important. I downloaded based on reviews that I have read that said it wasn't too sappy and that while it was a love story, it wasn't like a 'chick flick'...which is true.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sabrina Mililani, HI, United States 10-05-10
    Sabrina Mililani, HI, United States 10-05-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    31
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    8
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    Overall
    "A great story and a great listen"

    This is a fun story, with richly developed characters. The narrators are talented, particularly the actor who narrates the elderly version of the main character.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 10-01-10
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 10-01-10
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    "Loved It!"

    I had several people suggest this book but I am not much of a circus person and I really don’t like books about animals so I was hesitant but I am glad I listened. Water for Elephants is a definite must read and I thoroughly enjoyed it - much much better than what I was expecting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sigrid 09-27-10
    sigrid 09-27-10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    133
    2
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    "wonderful"

    One of my favorite books. I was born to circus parents, and this reminded me of the stories my father used to tell me. I just loved it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula Elmer 09-20-10
    Paula Elmer 09-20-10 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    20
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    Overall
    "disappointing and disgusting"

    I was really looking forward to reading about how smart elephants are in a story about them or that included them more than this one does. I read to chapter 9 or 10 and finally an elephant was introduced. I am disgusted that there is a titillating and graphic sexual encounter every time the younger reader reads. I read a lot of reviews about this for a long time before I finally bought this book and am very disappointed that I never found this mentioned in the reviews at that point. Am not impressed in this author nor will i read her works again.

    0 of 0 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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