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Water for Elephants Audiobook
Water for Elephants
Written by: 
Sara Gruen
Narrated by: 
David LeDoux, John Randolph Jones
 >   > 
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 (16996 )
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4.5 (9085 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Kindle Customer 06-18-06 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    63
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    3
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    "Great Narration!!"

    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.

    53 of 55 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Theodore Kingston, Jamaica 06-09-12
    Theodore Kingston, Jamaica 06-09-12

    "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." - Jojen Reed. #ADanceWithDragons

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3526
    ratings
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    103
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    "This is what Audiobook should be..."


    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!

    103 of 108 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lizbeth Sussex, NJ, USA 08-31-06
    Lizbeth Sussex, NJ, USA 08-31-06 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    53
    ratings
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    "One of the best books this year"

    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.

    48 of 50 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Geff tacoma, WA, USA 06-19-06
    Geff tacoma, WA, USA 06-19-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    71
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    8
    6
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    "A colorful & sweet adventure"

    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!

    52 of 55 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rita Arcata, CA, USA 04-28-10
    Rita Arcata, CA, USA 04-28-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    49
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    "A story to sink your world into"

    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.

    49 of 53 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenda Gallatin, MO, USA 01-08-08
    Glenda Gallatin, MO, USA 01-08-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    36
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    "Loved It!"

    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!

    33 of 36 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Sunnyside, UT, US 11-28-06
    Amazon Customer Sunnyside, UT, US 11-28-06 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    44
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    "There arn't enough stars"

    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.

    37 of 41 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anita Coon 03-25-10
    Anita Coon 03-25-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    "Swept away"

    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.

    21 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allison edwards, CO, United States 07-09-06
    Allison edwards, CO, United States 07-09-06 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Captivating and endearing"

    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!

    43 of 48 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer 06-23-06
    Jennifer 06-23-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    57
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    "A must read!"

    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!

    50 of 57 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Ms. F. Haselden
    12/2/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Too difficult to understand - I gave up"
    Would you try another book written by Sara Gruen or narrated by David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ?

    I would not buy another book narrated by this narrator. The old man gruff voice was meant to be characterful, but it turned out to be almost impossible to understand. When selecting a narrator, it's important to choose someone who can both provide characterful voice but clear diction. This narrator was nearly impossible to understand. Gruff, deep, slurring his words. I couldn't enjoy the book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • KE
    Prenton, United Kingdom
    8/23/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Marvellous!"

    Great characters but Rosie best of all - a Polish elephant. I really cared about the characters and of course the elephant. Best download this year and in the sale!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rozemarijn
    8/20/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Predictable and one dimensional characters"

    Disapointingingly predictable story where the one big event is revealed at the beginning. Simply and sentimental in a cheap way. No enchantment or captivating story. The narrators where difficult to understand and acted without feeling. The characters were dumb and didnt develop. It became pretty annoying. If you want a simple story without many surprises and with false sentiments, this is your book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs W.
    7/23/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant build up"

    Could not stop listening, story captivates and totally enchants, you can see the 'big top' in the story - pure pleasure!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. P. D. Selman
    Kent, U.K.
    7/14/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A life less ordinary"
    If you could sum up Water for Elephants in three words, what would they be?

    Loss and self-discovery.
    (Not sure if that counts as three words or four but what the heck...)


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    My favourite character was the protagonist, Jacob. Other reviewers have criticised this character for being too perfect but I have to disagree. He's often painfully naïve and is willing to have a romantic relationship with a married woman; I'd call those character flaws. I like him because he tries his best to do the right thing and I can certainly relate to his feeling of being completely adrift and out of his depth a lot of the time.


    Have you listened to any of David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    This is the first time I've listened to any of their work. They both do a cracking job of bringing this story to life.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    While the book is not (nor is it meant to be) laugh out loud funny, it did make me chuckle a few times. It tells the tale of a man's life (two significant portions of it, anyway) and, as such, it encompasses a range of different emotions.
    The ending left me with a deep feeling of melancholy.


    Any additional comments?

    This book manages to capture both the old-fashioned magic of the circus and the darker side of the business without ever becoming preachy. No mean trick. I'd definitely read more books by Gruen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Aline Stokes
    12/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Delightful"
    What made the experience of listening to Water for Elephants the most enjoyable?

    The story was unusual, and the performance was good


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The main character (I finished listening some time ago so I can't actually remember his name)


    What does David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    The voices and accents brought the story to life.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    None- I love the choice of title and wouldn't want to somehow diminish it with a tag line that might give more away.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Wendy
    Ramsgate, United Kingdom
    11/4/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs. S. Mccarra
    Scotland
    8/16/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Life is so much more than the present."

    The scene is one that fascinates most of us - running away and joining a circus. This story tells of the highs and humour and pulls no punches when it comes to the blacker goings on in the train traveling circus of the prohibition era. What brought it particularly to life was the narration of the nonagenarian. The old man having been through such eventful times and now in a nursing home with his family forgetting about him. This was beautifully read with such feeling that it reminds you that people are not just what you see now but made up of their multifaceted past.
    I am a regular audio book listener but only a very few strike me like this when the story and narrator/s come together to make something so beautiful even when listening to the more horrific events of the time. Life is so much more than the present.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • sarah
    United Kingdom
    7/29/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A beautiful and engrossing tale!"
    What about David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ’s performance did you like?

    very well performed, easy voices to listen to


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    yes, I had a tear at the end from the luck and kindness shown to Jacob that he no longer had to endure the emptiness of old age


    Any additional comments?

    A beautifully written book! I thought it may be a bit “dark” or full of sadness but I was wrong, its an engrossing read with love, torment, tragedy and heart warming happiness……all at the circus.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    7/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Unusual love story"
    What made the experience of listening to Water for Elephants the most enjoyable?

    The description of circus life before it was politically incorrect to have animals at the circus.


    Which character – as performed by David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones – was your favourite?

    The main character as an old man.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I was disturbed at the cruelty to some of the performers and staff as well as the animals.


    Any additional comments?

    A love story with a difference.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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