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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 (18924 )
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4.6 (10841 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    SBNRM 03-31-11
    SBNRM 03-31-11 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    67
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    1
    Overall
    "LOVED IT!!!"

    This book was amazing!! I truly felt like I was right there, a part of the Circus! I wanted to read this before the movie came out, and I sure am glad that I did! It was hard to stop listening to it. The characters are so real. This is the type of "feel-good" story that you dont want to end.

    If you are looking for a book with romance, some comedy, a little action/adventure, and a few tears; then this is definitely the book for you!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CC 03-29-11
    CC 03-29-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    73
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    207
    49
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    9
    Overall
    "A TRUE WINNER!!"

    I really didn't have much interest in reading this book as the summary didn't spark any interest from me - it just didn't seem like the type of book that I would read. However, I decided that since it had received such great reviews, that if I was ever going to read this book, listening to it might be the way to go. I am so glad that I decided to listen to the Audible recording. The story in and of itself is absolutely wonderful, but listening to the narrators brought this story to life. BEST NARRATED BOOK I'VE EVER LISTENED TO!!! Couldn't wait to continue the story each day and when it was over, I immediately started it over again. It is that good!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather Corbett, OR, United States 03-29-11
    Heather Corbett, OR, United States 03-29-11
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    48
    1
    Overall
    "Wonderful!!!!!!"

    This book is one of the best books I have heard. The writing is amazing, as is the narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Lockport, NY, United States 03-28-11
    Richard Lockport, NY, United States 03-28-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    49
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    44
    31
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    Overall
    "Excellent in every way"

    This is a superior read and well narrated. My biggest regret was when it ended, but what an ending!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    alena 03-28-11
    alena 03-28-11 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    62
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Just loved it!"

    I really loved this book! I've been going through the Audible essentials list, and this is a truly great audio book. The ending in particular is really sweet. I love the way the dual storylines get woven together. The 90, or 93 year old Jacob reminded me of taking care of my partner's 92 year old grandmother-- I always loved the little snippets of stories that survived in her mind. Such a sweet book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ray 03-28-11
    Ray 03-28-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    14
    10
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    1
    Overall
    "Water for Elephants"

    A GREAT read and even better Audible story. My teen aged Grandchildren loved it also.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary 03-27-11
    Mary 03-27-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    213
    3
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    0
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    Overall
    "Entertaining to the end"

    I enjoyed this book from beginning to the end. I highly recommend it. Can't wait to see the movie.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sherry HOUSTON, TX, United States 03-27-11
    Sherry HOUSTON, TX, United States 03-27-11 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    161
    33
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    Overall
    "Couldn't stop listening"

    I use these books to take my mind of exercising and this one was so good that I went way beyond the time I alloted. I found myself getting lost in the story, I could visualize the circus and all the characters.
    The old man's comments on life make you think about your own life, it's a bit scary sometimes. What makes one family care for thier elders' and another family drop thiers off in a nursing home? Does any one really want to live to be 90 or 93. The only part of the book I did not enjoy was the ending, really? Did I miss something? Should I listen again? Was he dreaming?

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard 03-26-11
    Richard 03-26-11
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    5
    2
    Overall
    "A wonderful story"

    I couldn't wait to get back in the car and hear more of this book. The wonderfully interwoven tale of a man in his youth and in his twilight inspires introspection and produces an understanding of the plight of the elderly in a way that will make you a little uncomfortable with yourself. I absolutely loved this book. The historical perspective on life in a circus during one of the most socially troubled times in our nation's history is priceless.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Traci Laguna Beach, CA, United States 03-25-11
    Traci Laguna Beach, CA, United States 03-25-11 Member Since 2010
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    36
    2
    Overall
    "Loved Every Minute!"

    I listen to a lot of books and I wasn't sure about this one because I thought it might be strange because it was about a circus. However, from the moment I began listening, I was hooked. Very enjoyable and sweet.

    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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