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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 (18531 )
5 star
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4.4 (10560 )
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Story
4.6 (10484 )
5 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Louise Galt, CA, United States 04-07-11
    Louise Galt, CA, United States 04-07-11 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    111
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "A beautiful story and a compelling reader."

    I throughly enjoyed the story and the readers brought the story to life. As a nurse has worked in nursing homes for several decades, I especially appreciated the relationship between a very caring nurse and the main character.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lannette Ajo, AZ, United States 04-07-11
    Lannette Ajo, AZ, United States 04-07-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    93
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    99
    42
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    11
    0
    Overall
    "Nice story, but would have liked more detail."

    I had to read (listen) to the book twice to really appreciate it. It is a nice story with good characters and narration. I would have liked to see more in-depth character development as well as more details about the circus acts and the overall experience of that kind of travelling life. Thought it would be a bit more gritty, but a good read to the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Natalie Catania 04-07-11 Listener Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    31
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Great listen!"

    Best book so far! I would really recommend for people with imagination. A must buy!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fatina Bisat 04-06-11

    Tina

    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    32
    5
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Very entertaining story"

    I thought the book was very well researched. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the both narrators ( one at age 23 and the other at 93) .

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angela Queen Creek, AZ, United States 04-06-11
    Angela Queen Creek, AZ, United States 04-06-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Is it possible to give no stars?"

    I am so baffled as to why this was a best seller and why they are making this book into a movie. I could not finish this book. The characters are bad people, crude and mean. The story is boring to tears. The writing is not interesting. And the story is really predictable. After the first two chapters I just read the "cliff notes" on wikipedia and decided that my time was better served than suffering through the rest of the book. I am going to try to see if I can get a refund from Audible...it was that bad.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sara 04-05-11
    sara 04-05-11 Listener Since 2009

    I Have always loved a good book,started reading when I was 3 or 4. But now there never seems to be enough time to curl up with a good read. So I switched to audio . Now I can enjoy a book anytime I want to! Thanks Audible

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    34
    2
    Overall
    "WOW"

    Hands down the best book I have experienced in a very long time.This is one of those books that you will remember for the rest of your life. The narrators were awesome as well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zin589 04-05-11
    Zin589 04-05-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    18
    2
    Overall
    "Wonderful Narration!"

    The narration kept me engrossed for long periods of time. It was a wonderful story that really drew me in and made me care about the characters. Most of the time, I would listen to this at the gym. I couldn't wait for my next session on the treadmill!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    suzie skiatook, OK, United States 04-04-11
    suzie skiatook, OK, United States 04-04-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    3
    Overall
    "exellent book hopefully the movie can compare."

    Wonderful book. The characters really came to life. At first I worried that it would be a sad story about a sad life. But instead it was a beautiful story about the rich and full lifes of several remarkable characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zachary Raleigh, NC, United States 04-04-11
    Zachary Raleigh, NC, United States 04-04-11 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    15
    1
    Overall
    "New favorite book"

    This book is absolutley spectacular. The narrators David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones are really enjoyable. I highly recommend. I wish there was a part two.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Russell 04-04-11
    Russell 04-04-11

    Like mysteries, not much in to SciFi, hate vampire books. Like most all years of history.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    42
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    259
    26
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    1
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    Overall
    "A Little Darker Than I Expected"

    Loved the book. Nice touch of using a different reader for the present and the flashbacks. The story kept me wondering what the next page would reveal. The author did an excellent job of describing the feelings of an old person in an assisted living home. Touched my heart.

    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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