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 story is absolutely captivating. One becomes attached to the characters almost instantly - not only because of the beautiful prose, but also the brilliantly acted narration.
Jacob as a young man ... and Jacob at 90... or 93. Now they (he) feel like family - I feel as if I was a part of that circus.
A must listen.
This was a terrific read and hard to put down at night. It was like running away to join the circus and becoming very connected with the story's most unusual characters. The writing is so rich one can almost smell the smells and hear the sounds of the train, the animals, and the music. All of the characters are enticing -- even the ones who are despicable in nature. I found myself really cheering for the main character in both his present situation and the past events of his life. I will never look at a circus or a nursing home patient the same again.
I loved this book. It is about a 93 year old man in a nursing home who had joined the circus when he was a young "almost veterinarian" during the depression. It's not the usual type of book I pick out, but am I ever glad I did. What a story. It moves skillfully back and forth between his life then and now. You'll laugh and cry as you listen to his exploits. The author paints such a believable picture of circus life, that you'll wonder if he was ever in the circus himself. The ending is a real surprise, too. Don't miss this one.
When my friend recommended this book to me, she couldn't say enough about it. How right she was! I work in the healthcare industry and appreciate how Sara Gruen captured the spirit of how the eldest members of our society can tell a story. More importantly, what is left with us after they have shared their histories. I recommended this read to my mother and she read stayed up until 6:00 a.m. to finish it in a day. A must read!
I liked this book. The story was interesting and sentimental. The readers were very believable. I didn't give 5 stars because of the bad language and discriptive sex scenes that I had to fast forward over.
Gruen does a terrific job of describing the settings. Listening, one easily can picture the scenes in which the acting occurs. I have a very strong "visual" image of the rail car where Jacob, Walter, the horses and Camel lived.
The 90 or 93 year old Jacob is a marvelous character. Life in a nursing home has never been described as well as this narrative.
Perhaps this is a sign of good writiing, but I grew to dislike the young Jacob early in the book. I found him to be a self-centered young man. He overreacts, thinks everyone should see things his way and is interested in himself above all others. I disliked him so much I nearly quit listening.
But I'm glad I listened, anyway. Sometimes, good writing does this to you.
I am a book listener and this was the best. I cannot decribe how this book took me into the world of this carnival and took me forward to the book ending. The only downside that I can mention is the VERY end was a little weak. I was expecting more. Still a five star and more. Love the charactors and the narrators. Both narrators are exellant. So real. Thanks to the author and I hope she provides many more just as good as this one. I look forward to them.
I was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. I laughed heartily, felt sad, was horrified and cheered. I actually responded aloud when something struck a chord. I'll listen to this book again, and hope to catch things I didn't get the first time around. That is truly a first for me. Well done!!!
This story is both beautiful and horrible. There were times when I was cringing as I listened due to the brutality of some of the circus workers in the depression era. Some may find it hard to listen to for that reason. but it is a beautifully written and narrated novel. And the ending was just what I needed!
"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.
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.
"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.........
"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.
Unusual subject and not one I would normally choose. It made me laugh and cry. Brilliant. Do read it
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
"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 !!
"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.
"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.
"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.
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