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)
This book was interesting to get through because of the vivid descriptions of the circus during the depression, and the basic plot line between Jacob, Marlena and August was fascinating. However, as I was reading and the further along I got, the more Jacob (the younger) really annoyed me as a character. I think he was an idiot. Older Jacob was really well narrated.... really felt for him, more than younger Jacob.
This is a story I enjoyed very much and was sorry to have it end. It is well written and well narrated. It is a must listen to, it captures the attention and keeps you wanting for more. I highly recommend this book.
This book is now on my list of favourites in my lifetime. It caught me right from the start and intrigued me until the end of the book. The review of Jacob’s memories of his past life in the depression mixed with his review of life now in a retirement home was both enlightening and humorous. I work in a long term care facility and found hearing the story from Jacob’s perspective was humbling and sent me through a whole raft of emotions. This story is well written, and the narrators did a fantastic job of bringing the story to life.
This is one of the best books I have read since "Soldier in the Great War." I realize now that it has a similar structure for a very compact span of time but I enjoyed it immensely. Very evocative writing. I thought the older voice actor would get on my nerves but the final chapter really gave the character such bravery as a free moving man.
Generally a very good book. It certainly kept my attention as I always like fiction based on stories that are based on history. The history here is the real life in a circus. Although well read for both narrators, the older version of the protagonist was a little harder to listen to and that part of the story dragged a bit. Without blowing the ending, I will say I let the book start over again to listen to the first chapter because I had assumed things that I needed to clarify. I always like that kind of twist. Definitely worth reading.
I loved this book. It offered an insightful view into the world of an elderly man, struggling with issues of mortality, memory, love, guilt, joy, loss and regret. Gruen masterfully portrays the plight of many very old people and the ways that they report living more vividly in the past than in the present. Both narrators were very skilled and brought the characters to life in a way I've seldom experienced in audio format. A memorable story and worthwhile download!
The story wasn't all sweet as some reviews have written, it had some violence that made the story more believable about the circus life and the people who worked them. The narration was superb as though you were transported into the scene as it was taking place. I think it was worth the time and credit and hope you enjoy it.
Several of my friends recommended this book to me over the past several years. I finally purchased it when it was on sale and it was fantastic. I loved the story, the setting and the point of view of both the older and younger hero. I enjoyed every minute and would highly recommend it!
Yet another book I never normally would have even noticed, let alone read, but I bought it when it was on sale, and I'm so glad I did. The narration by both men is fabulous, especially Mr Jones (it feels like he could read a shopping list, and it would still feel like you were learning something amazing), and the story itself is great. It's harsh in places, beautiful in others, and I was terribly disappointed when the story finished. I could stay in that world for a looooong time :)
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