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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 (18108 )
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4.4 (10179 )
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Story
4.6 (10104 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Chris West Valley City, UT, United States 03-14-11
    Chris West Valley City, UT, United States 03-14-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    3
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    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Not able to listen due to graphic sexual content."

    I can't believe I used a credit for this! I could not listen to it. What started out as a greatly engaging story, quickly turned into the most graphic sexual descriptions I have heard in all of my reading. I tried fast-forwarding, turning down the volume, etc. But finally I just turned it off. Those parts were not needed for the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melissa Dayton, OH, United States 03-14-11
    Melissa Dayton, OH, United States 03-14-11 Member Since 2010

    Counselor with eclectic taste, I enjoy all types of fiction, dark, strange and twisted things, humor and explicitly.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    80
    37
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    10
    Overall
    "LOVED THIS ..."

    Wonderful and one of the best audio book ever...I truly recommended this for any age or gender whether you like historical fiction or something else, anyone can enjoy this story. The narration is brilliant with well developed characters and just an all around beautiful tale that I was oh so sorry to see end; I'll definitely listen again

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Renee Waianae, HI, United States 03-13-11
    Renee Waianae, HI, United States 03-13-11 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    120
    12
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    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Loved the story!"

    I listen to audible books to be entertained. And this book held my attention through hours of work. I loved the narration and how the story unfolded. I would listen to it again. I didn't mind some of the vulgarity. The story gave you a real sense of what circus life would be like behind the scene. Colorful, gritty, and raw.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Claire Wofford Edgerton, OH 03-09-11
    Claire Wofford Edgerton, OH 03-09-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    51
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    52
    13
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    2
    0
    Overall
    "I can't stop listening!"

    I'm only half way through the book and I can't stop listening....there's something magical about the circus in the 1920-30's depression era.
    This is definitely an ADULT ONLY book...there are some sections of adult content that children and some teens should not hear. Some people who reviewed this book used those sections to based their decision for not liking it, but i think it gives the book a more realistic feel and some of them are funny...well the made me laugh.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MaDonna Victoria, TX, United States 03-07-11
    MaDonna Victoria, TX, United States 03-07-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    53
    17
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    "WATER FOR ELEPHANTS"

    Really enjoyed this book, wasn't too sure about it in the beginning, but the book shocked me and made me laugh!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anna Herndon, VA, United States 03-06-11
    Anna Herndon, VA, United States 03-06-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    34
    6
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    0
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    Overall
    "Good, but not great"

    I think this book was good, but the suspense was highly lacking. If it hadn't been for the forward (which was a scene from the very end of the book), I'm not sure there would have been much interest on my part at all. The narrators were alright, but lacked good character voices. All in all though, I still enjoyed it. A fun little book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew 03-04-11
    Matthew 03-04-11 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    50
    4
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Usually Not My Type Of Book..."

    I was only really interested in listening to this book due to the high praise of many of my co-workers(who happen to be female) and their chit chat about the book. I took a chance after listening to the brief sample recording and I will say that I enjoyed this book from the start. I thought this would be like any Nicholas Sparks book and just be predictable and sappy to the end, with maybe a few main characters dying in between. I was way off the mark, it's a very descriptive book from both perspectives utilizing 2 narrators to read the same character...his young self from the past, and his older self from the present. I was not only moved by this book, but I really felt for him throughout the story...I usually listen to thrillers/supernatural/mysteries but this one stood out like no other. It's def. worth a credit.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Upatoi, GA, United States 03-01-11
    Jeff Upatoi, GA, United States 03-01-11 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    2
    Overall
    "Highly recommended"

    I've been listening to books on CD etc. for several years and found this to be one of the best books I've ever listened to. You won't be disappointed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nanette Donohue 02-20-11 Member Since 2009
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    64
    2
    Overall
    "Loved the narration, hated the music"

    This book is narrated quite nicely by two men. They did a great job. I, however, was completely annoyed by the musical transitions. However, I would listen to it again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert R Pesa 02-16-11 Listener Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    34
    ratings
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    19
    15
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    1
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    Overall
    "superb"

    Loved this book, loved the readers. Definitely among my top 2 or 3 selections I've gotten from Audible in the year that I've been a member.

    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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