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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 (17118 )
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4.4 (9275 )
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4.6 (9196 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Heather Phoenix, AZ, United States 09-18-10
    Heather Phoenix, AZ, United States 09-18-10 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    "I CHERISHED this charming book!"

    It was enchanting, funny, touching and very intriguing...loved this story! You won't be dissappointed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    book nerd New York, NY United States 09-12-10
    book nerd New York, NY United States 09-12-10 Listener Since 2010
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    14
    1
    Overall
    "good plot, not so great character development"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet Plano, TX, United States 08-31-10
    Janet Plano, TX, United States 08-31-10 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    39
    1
    Overall
    "Excellent!"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    darla Smith 08-23-10
    darla Smith 08-23-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    0
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    53
    2
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    FOLLOWING
    0
    1
    Overall
    "Beautiful"

    Loved this book. Written and narrated so well that you can smell the characters. A great job!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather Crystal City, Manitoba, Canada 08-21-10
    Heather Crystal City, Manitoba, Canada 08-21-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    23
    4
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    Overall
    "Water for Elephants"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine Romero Rosemead, CA United States 08-20-10
    Catherine Romero Rosemead, CA United States 08-20-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    16
    5
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Wondrously satisfying"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amy Andrews Hamilton, Ontario Canada 08-17-10
    Amy Andrews Hamilton, Ontario Canada 08-17-10 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    130
    11
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    0
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    Overall
    "Insightful"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail Ridley San Deigo, CA USA 08-16-10
    Gail Ridley San Deigo, CA USA 08-16-10 Member Since 2015

    G.Ridley

    HELPFUL VOTES
    264
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    269
    123
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    47
    3
    Overall
    "Good Listen"

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G Reinhardt 08-14-10
    G Reinhardt 08-14-10 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    194
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    830
    93
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    18
    1
    Overall
    "Great Story & Great Characters"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna Queensland, Australia 08-04-10
    Donna Queensland, Australia 08-04-10 Listener Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    68
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    144
    34
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    21
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    Overall
    "Just Wonderful"

    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 :)

    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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