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Water for Elephants Audiobook

Water for Elephants

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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 (18993 )
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4.6 (10903 )
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  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 04-15-11
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 04-15-11 Member Since 2016
    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
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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
  •  
    Sarah Nelson Phoenix, AZ 08-11-15
    Sarah Nelson Phoenix, AZ 08-11-15 Member Since 2016
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    "10 Stars for LeDoux!"

    First and foremost, LeDoux is spot on. The narration in this book is remarkable. It couldn't have been done better than it was. Wow. The book was very good as well, but I really do feel like LeDoux is what made this a spectacular experience.

    The storyline was interesting and character driven. I enjoyed every moment of it. Everything did get wrapped in a nice little bow, but sometimes that's a good thing. The events were exciting and, once again, made much more so by LeDoux's amazing narration.

    Can I give him 10 stars?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Regina-Audible USA 12-21-13
    Regina-Audible USA 12-21-13 Member Since 2010
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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
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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 2017
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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
  •  
    Tricia - Audible NJ, United States 04-13-12
    Tricia - Audible NJ, United States 04-13-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Wonderful!"

    The author puts together a complex and touching story. By focusing on two distinct periods of Jacob’s life, the listener is given an intensely rich picture of him as person and of the world he lives in. At first glance it would be easy to dismiss Jacob as being just another bitter and disgruntled old guy. By learning the back story of the pivotal part of his life spent with the circus, the listener comes to a deeper understanding of him as a man.

    As a historic novel, this book also provides a richly descriptive portrayal of life in the circus in the 1930’s; a time and place that will never be repeated. We all have ideas of what the circus is like, and what the Depression might have been like, but putting the two together is something completely unique.

    Overall, both narrators are excellent. Older Jacob is brilliant. The narration perfectly portrays his gruff exterior and thoughtfully conflicted interior. He comes across as being completely authentic. Young Jacob is also quite good. My only criticism is with how he does the female voices. They’re just a little off the mark, and this is sometimes distracting.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lauren Chicago, IL, United States 12-04-11
    Lauren Chicago, IL, United States 12-04-11 Member Since 2011
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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
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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
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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
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  • Kindle Customer
    worcestershire uk
    2/16/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "One of my desert island books"

    If I were ever stranded on a desert island, this would be one of the books I'd like to take with me, and in this audio version in particular. The performance is spot on and I could really lose myself in it. First class. I would heartily recommend this for purchase. Incidently, I wish the same narrator would make a recording of one of Sara Gruen's other books - "Ape House" which is also delightful but it doesn't appear to be in audio book format yet. Worth a read though.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • 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
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    "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
  • W
    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
  • SusanMcC
    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

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