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)
An interesting story of the depression era and all the crazy characters of a struggling circus at that time. I really enjoyed the narration of the main character as he recounts his circus experiences at the age of 93 (...or was it 90); and also the narration of the same character living the experiences as they occurred. Very well written and very well narrated.
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." - Jojen Reed. #ADanceWithDragons
This book was a home run all over! Excellent narration, superb storyline, engaging and interesting characters, great imagery and poignant.
The reviews for this book are indicative of how excellent a book this really is. The entire book was done so incredibly well! When I first got this book I didn't really know what to expect, in fact I didn’t even know there was a movie about the book and had I known I probably wouldn’t have got the book due to my aversion at times to overhyped books turned movies... Good thing though because I would have missed out on a very good read...
I found myself fascinated with how the Sara Gruen (the author) introduced Jacob at 23 and at 90 or is it 93 (you'll get it when you read to it). The different struggles with Jacob at these two different stages of life is manoeuvred quite will and interwoven immaculately with the main storyline. I like how the author was able to introduce the topic of growing ‘old and irrelevant’ at one end of the spectrum and being ‘young and impetuous’ at the other end. In both stages (the young and old Jacob) the common thread is tragedy and loss in a sense but eventually finding one’s place once more.
The myriad of characters are all very interesting (as one can expect from a circus) and the relevant characters were all developed quite well! I found all the major and minor characters fascinating... Rose Marie, Uncle Al, Marlena, Camel, Walter, August... I honestly didn’t think any of these characters were short changed in terms of character development in this book and you get to peer into each of them even if it’s just a bit.
Unlike a lot of books that tend to run on incessantly, providing you with seemingly useless details, Water for Elephants doesn't do that. Nor was it too short, it doesn’t leave you thinking that aspects of the books were rushed. It hit that sweet spot that so many books miss some times... that clear, nice balance of not being too long but not being too short and yet still leaves you wanting more. It has its sobering moments that make you nod silently in approval and smiles inwardly leaving you to go through the book a little slower, not wanting to miss the salient, poignant points being mentioned. It of course also has those nail biting moments that makes you sit up a little bit straighter and has you rushing the book trying to figure out what’s next and how everything is going to unfold. The closure at the end of the book was poignant enough and very fitting, but yet I wanted it to continue because it was just so good.
Narration like this is what makes Audible titles and Audiobooks in general worth listening to. David LeDoux portraying John in his 20's was great but John Randolph Jones portraying John in his 90's is AMAZING! I like multiple narrated books and this certainly did not disappoint in any way, shape or form. Inflections were on par, strength of tone was excellent and pacing was superb... A better cast they could not pick and they brought life to these characters in a way I doubt much other narrators could.
I would recommend this to anyone. Excellent writing, pitch perfect narration, engaging story, poignant life truths, sobering in all the right areas, fun in others, great timing, great character development and a very fitting closure. GREAT STUFF!
Honestly, when I initially read the book summary and saw that it was about circus life, I was turned off and did not want to purchase it. When I read the reviews, I decided to buy it. I generally dislike circuses, but this author detailed circus life with vivid detail and emotion. I was impressed by her depiction of the elderly Jacob and his emotional response to aging. Perhaps this will cause people to regard the elderly with more tender loving care.
The two readers of this book added incredible depth and should be nominated for a grammy. I let my children ages 8 thru 15 listen to this book (there were a few sexually explicit scenes which I fast forwarded through) and they loved it and thought it would make a great movie.
I really loved this book. I had it on my wishlist for quite awhile before buying it and I am so glad I did. The two narrators in this book are wonderful... and in my opinion made the book even better. Love, Love, Loooooved it!
Author Sara Gruen has spun a charming and unaffected tale of love, revenge and renewal that is made even more enjoyable by the equally gifted talents of David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones (dual narrators). This audio book was a giggle and a tear rolled into one. I'm very tempted to read a hard copy of this now just to see how it compares (and holds up) to what is now one of my favorite audio books. Superb!
This was an amazing audio book. I just finished it and I already feel empty without it. The narration was spot on, the music was a great touch to really draw me into the life of the "show". I couldn't stop listening and when I did I dreamt of all the wonderful, bright, and vivid characters.
This beautifully written story was wonderfully narrated by the two gentlemen as Jacob at 23 & 90...or 93. I absolutely loved it and was sorry when it ended. I especially enjoyed the elder Jacob's view of life in a nursing home. I would highly recommend this as a transporting read. I am listening to it again and enjoying the second time around.
This is the best book I have listened to this year and I listen to two books every month. The writing and narration was excellent. If you ask me about most books I read, I have to work hard to remember the plot. I have listened to three long novels since this book and still remember it vividly. It is books like this that make me love Audible.com.
This book was thoroughly engrossing. I found myself thinking about it all day, and looking forward to the next time I could listen. A wild assortment of characters, brought very much to life. I loved the reader too. I highly recommend this book, especially if you love a happy ending - this one is the best!
The character development in this book is very rich. You become quick 'friends' with the endearing characters, no matter their quirks and downfalls in life. The readers were wonderful. I've listened to this book multiple times!
I've listened to around 20 books and this has got to be the best. I'd read the back cover and wasn't keen on reading about someone running away to join a circus, but a friend recommended it and I was hooked. It cleverly switches between the main character at aged 23 and 93. I found the 23 year old story informative and powerful, and the 93 year old poignant and sensitive - I was close to tears after one of the elderly man's disappointments. Fantastic!
Beautiful story, and beautifully narrated. Easy listen, but full of creative ideas, thoughtful perspectives, and very touching. I've recommended it to a few friends, who all loved it, so it is a good sign, which gave me confidence to write my first ever review! Fantastic listen for super busy and bored alike, as you'll have something to look forward to!
I read the reviews, which were full of praise. But this book is lacking in story and the American accents are very hard to understand at times. I didn't enjoy it and gave up half way through.
I was inspired to read this book after seeing the movie. As ever - the book outstripped the movie by miles. I loved the format, swapping back and forth between an old man's sad current existence and a first person account of his past life. Having two different readers absolutely worked. I found it moving and totally gripping. Very well written by a master story teller.
I loved this - I laughed and I cried and didn't want it to end. When it did I started it from the beginning and listened all over again. I think it was even better second time around. Recommend with a capital R.
Unusual subject matter and although there is no great emotional depth to this story it was absolutely fascinating to learn the background detailed history of the touring American Circus Trains during the depression. I really enjoyed it so much I want to see the film now for illustrative purposes!
"A beautifully crafted tale."
Quite simply my favorite Audible listen so far. A well crafted story with evocative description of a bygone era providing a rich backdrop for an engaging tale played out by a satisfyingly varied array of characters. This all given added interest through the story being relayed via the reminiscences of the protagonist in the final years of his life but still with some fire in his belly! An unexpected, and therefore all-the-more rewarding insight into, and perspective on how one deals with the process of aging. For me, this beautifully told story ticks all the right boxes and thus is highly recommended.
"Leaves you with a warm glow"
Definitely the best audio book so far for me. A good oldfashioned brilliantly-crafted novel, read in perfect character by the two narrators. Will make you laugh and cry unless you are very hard-boiled. OK yes young Jacob is maybe a bit too perfect and secondary characters are disposed of rather summarily once their part is over but I defy anyone with an ounce of romance in their soul not to be totally absorbed by this fascinating tale of life, love and death in a 30s American travelling train circus. Equally suitable for a 15 year old or a 90 year old and everyone inbetween as long as they are not shocked by a little swearing and two scenes of a sexual nature.
"A wonderful book"
I cannot think of anything I didn't like about this audio book. Plot, narration, characters, elephant - all wonderful. Both parts, the contemporary one and the main story set in the 30s, are fascinating in their own right. Together they tell a great story that kept me gripped.
"A mixed bag"
I liked Water for Elephants, but I wasn't blown away by it. The sections featuring the elderly Jacob were brilliant and made me think a lot about continuity of the self at different life stages. The plot of the main story was fairly engaging, albeit predictable and the book depicted circus life in the depression believably enough for me, not having experienced either. Having said that, I just didn't care enough about the human characters to buy into any of the tension and if I had been reading on paper, I'm not sure if have felt compelled to finish the book. It was nicely read by both narrators.
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