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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 (18535 )
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4.6 (10488 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Bill Kailua Kona, HI, United States 09-08-12
    Bill Kailua Kona, HI, United States 09-08-12 Member Since 2016

    The Path Between the Seas to The Great Bridge ~ Kagan's Peloponnesian War to Gaddis' Cold One ~ Mornings on Horseback to a River of Doubt ~ Tom to Huck ~ Lennie to Charley ~ Cadfael to Cross ~ Rhyme to Reacher ~ Blomkvist and Salander to Wallander and Wallander ~ Moving Cheese or Eating Frogs ~ On the Road and Into Thin Air ~ The End of History to A Short History of Everything to ... well ... everything else.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What Are You Waiting For?"

    If you have not read, or listened, to this wonderful book yet, do it now. A beautiful story of memories lost and found, of young love and a life lived well, of courage and its consequences, and of elephants! (well, at least one).

    This is one of those novels you will listen to more than once.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 04-15-11
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 04-15-11 Member Since 2016

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Glad I finally read it"

    An entire world contained in the circus. Animals from around-the-world but more, people of all kinds too: the good, the bad, the really, really bad. Life is too short, I seldom read a book that was not well received either by the critics or the public at large. I am still often disappointed, but not this time. The story was unique in many ways and not always because of its characters, though they certainly were that. The characters are well-developed and we care about its heros and heroines. The compare-and-contrast of the young and old protagonist is nicely done as is the music in between. My only personal criticism is that I think the end of the ending could have been dispensed with. It seemed incongruous and contrived. But hey, I'm no author; what do I know. With regard to the circus itself, I don't know how isomorphic with reality the book might be. While it has obviously sold well in our time and place, it's difficult to say whether it will become a classic. It sure is a nice, simple and entertaining story for now. Most would give the book 5 stars and I'm good with that. I have just read too many 5 star books to put this one into that same league.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wolfpacker Fort Mill, SC 10-14-08
    Wolfpacker Fort Mill, SC 10-14-08 Member Since 2014

    Curtis

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Order This Book Even if You Don't Like the Circus"

    This book is a moving story centered around a circus, of all places. I'll have to say that the circus theme didn't interest me and almost made me not order this book. I'm glad I took a chance based on all of the great reviews.
    The narration by the old Jacob is worth the price of admission alone. I could really imagine myself with a young mind stuck in an old body. So believable! The story he recalls through the young Jacob's narration is also remarkable. And the ending is fantastic.

    Take a chance like I did even if you don't like the circus. You won't regret it.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Regina-Audible USA 12-21-13
    Regina-Audible USA 12-21-13 Member Since 2010

    Audible editor and listener. Lover of fiction, thrillers, celebrity memoirs, and quirky teen novels.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Perfection"

    There's no question why Water for Elephants ranks at the top of the AudibleEssentials list. It's one of those books that comes alive through the voice of the narrators. John Randolph Jones gives a realistically haunting performance as Jacob Jankowski in his nineties while David LeDoux brings passion and innocence to the younger Jacob as he ventures through the fascinating world of a Prohibition-Era circus.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 10-02-13
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 10-02-13 Member Since 2017

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Solidly Good, Not Great"

    This is a fine book, with a pleasant story and some nice characters. I particularly liked the ending and the narration was superior without being perfect. The settings for the story were mildly interesting and It was a very easy listen. Given the many great reviews I hoped for a wonderful and magical listen. This it was not. It was a nice modern novel, but for me that was it. The characters sometimes verged on almost becoming really interesting but then the scene ended, they never got me to laugh or cry, or even care very much.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rochelle 11-25-12
    Rochelle 11-25-12 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Modern Classic"
    If you could sum up Water for Elephants in three words, what would they be?

    Magical, Touching story.


    What other book might you compare Water for Elephants to and why?

    The only book I can think to compare Water for Elephants to is the Elegance of the Hedgehog. The reason is simply that Elegance of the Hedgehog became my favourite book when I read it. Both authors are remarkable storytellers, but something more than that: Both create characters who are multifaceted, remarkable & ultimately loveable.

    Both books contain tears, wit & quiet thought. Both are perfect.


    What about David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ’s performance did you like?

    I adored the performances of both narrators - they conveyed precisely what they needed to. The narrator who played Jacob at 90 or 93 depicted such real upset & confusion over his place in the community he finds himself in, and a wicked sense of humour.


    If you could rename Water for Elephants, what would you call it?

    Circus. I'm really not sure there is a better name than it has, yet the name & the idea of it being set in a circus put me off reading it for months. I wish I had read it sooner.


    Any additional comments?

    My favourite bit is the very last chapter. That said, I loved every other chapter as well, but the end is perfect. Could not be better.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lauren Chicago, IL, United States 12-04-11
    Lauren Chicago, IL, United States 12-04-11 Member Since 2011

    I guess I'm a baby...I just love to be read to.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "MUCH BETTER THAN MOVIE"

    This is a classic example of a book being much better than its movie. If you want theatrics listen to the audiobook because it has a lot of suspense. When you can't put down an audiobook, it means you have headphones on when you are making dinner, eating lunch, doing laundry, at the grocery, etc. etc. That was me with this book.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt east bentleigh, VIC, Australia 02-12-10
    Matt east bentleigh, VIC, Australia 02-12-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful!"

    a great story and beautifully narrated. loved the two voices of jacob and all of the characters through the book. sometimes was hard to listen to the cruelty to rosie and imagining the awful lives of some of the animals especially the polar bear locked in a cage in the heat of a sweltering summer in america.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Louisville, CO, USA 11-21-09
    Patti Louisville, CO, USA 11-21-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "How Delightful!"

    What a pleasant surprise. As a lover of historical fiction, I really enjoyed this story set mostly in Depression-era America about, of all things, a young verterinarian who joins a circus. The two narrators, the young and elderly version of the main character, add depth to an already-captivating story. The book is also a tale of life and adventure on the American railroad. This was the era that my parents grew up in and I could hear my father in the pitch-perfect voice of the older Jacob.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marius Irene, South Africa 08-19-09
    Marius Irene, South Africa 08-19-09 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Really Good, just misses Great"

    I enjoyed this immensely. The two narrators David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones do a fine job. The story flows well, and the atmosphere is strong, and authentic. The story loses a star for two reasons: First, despite Jacob's good nature, he has a complete lack of self-awareness, and the author seems unaware of this. Second, the story ultimately ignores Rosie. I'll say no more, or I'd be a spoiler.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
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  • 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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