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Water for Elephants Audiobook

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.
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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 (16558 )
5 star
 (9496)
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (313)
Overall
4.4 (8758 )
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3 star
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1 star
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Story
4.5 (8680 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Kathy Dublin, OH, United States 05-31-10
    Kathy Dublin, OH, United States 05-31-10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    3
    Overall
    "Such a great book!"

    I was drawn into this book from the minute it started because of the actors. They did such an amazing job! I can still hear the "old" Jacob in my head when I think about the story. The voice of August was wonderful as well. Some books are just better listened to than read. Its like I'm attending a great performance every time I put my headphones on. It was a wonderful story as well!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lawrence Lovelace Louisville 05-19-10
    Lawrence Lovelace Louisville 05-19-10 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    Overall
    "Easy read"

    Great car book! After the first five minutes I was hooked!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Freyda metairie, LA, United States 05-11-10
    Freyda metairie, LA, United States 05-11-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "fabulous"

    Absolutely engaging.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    School Nurse Cindy WV 05-10-10 Listener Since 2008

    I've been listening to audio books for years and have been an audible subscriber for ? 10 years maybe? A long time anyway.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    49
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    37
    22
    FOLLOWERS
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    0
    4
    Overall
    "charming"

    A great listen

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda A. Wright Tallahassee, FL United States 05-03-10
    Linda A. Wright Tallahassee, FL United States 05-03-10 Member Since 2013

    I'm a recovering librarian. Since I had a stroke in 2002 I have found reading print difficult. I am so grateful for audiobooks.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    68
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    131
    25
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    "Reads like a memoir"

    Wonderful description of the Depression era circus life in grizzly detail mixed with poignant and very funny sections of life in a nursing home.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cat F. 04-22-10
    Cat F. 04-22-10

    I read it as if I wrote it.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    49
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "A Complete Experience"

    Fully-fleshed characters, firm plot, tears at all the right places, gripping drama, two astounding narrators and a skillful author. Even the little bits of music added were perfect. I mourn the ending of this book but not the ending.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana Victorville, CA, USA 04-17-10
    Diana Victorville, CA, USA 04-17-10 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
    Overall
    "Best Audible I have ever listened to"

    I love this book! The characters come to life as you listen to the tale of the main character, young and old. Beautifully narrated.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Cumberland, RI, USA 04-16-10
    Patricia Cumberland, RI, USA 04-16-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Far better than I ever expected it would be"

    This book brought me to tears on several occasions due to the harshness and the beauty contained within the story itself, but I am so very happy that I held out to the end. Oh, what an ending, thank you! This story will appeal to those of us who know how perceptive and intelligent animals really are and also how wonderful and, at times horrible, humans can be.
    Several friends have complained of not being able to get into the printed version of this book but I found the audio version to be fascinating from start to finish. I listen in my car to and from work and while cleaning house since these are the only bits of free time I really have these days - outside of a long haul flight. I was brought up in a home filled with avid readers, from the time I was 5 I always had a book in my hands. Discovering audio books has been a God-send. Now I cannot wait to get to my commute or housekeeping to find out what happens next!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathy Fish 04-15-10
    Kathy Fish 04-15-10 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    117
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "The audio was as entertaining as the book."

    One of those "laugh out loud" experiences created by great content and excellent narration. Kudos to you both.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teri Tulsa, OK, USA 04-12-10
    Teri Tulsa, OK, USA 04-12-10 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    32
    6
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    0
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    Overall
    "Fantastic read"

    I loved this book and hated for it to end.

    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
    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

    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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