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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 (18540 )
5 star
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4.4 (10568 )
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Story
4.6 (10492 )
5 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Sherry HOUSTON, TX, United States 03-27-11
    Sherry HOUSTON, TX, United States 03-27-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    156
    31
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    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
    35
    1
    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
  •  
    Jan Woodbridge, VA, United States 03-25-11
    Jan Woodbridge, VA, United States 03-25-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Raw and Intriguing!!! LOVED IT!"

    From the moment I pressed play, I just couldn't stop listening! What a clever story! Very well written and so creative! I cannot wait for the movie; hope it's as good as the book! You won't be disappointed! It has everything! Love, lust, intrigue, action, heartbreaking, sweet and all under the "big top". I was a bit skeptical about having 2 narrators, but it was very well done. The transitions are seamless, painting such vivid pictures!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie Arlington, TN, United States 03-24-11
    Marie Arlington, TN, United States 03-24-11 Member Since 2013

    Audible is a really great way to escape into different worlds. I love "reading" and discovering new authors and stories.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    379
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    105
    94
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    10
    9
    Overall
    "Great Book - profanity alert"

    Despite the profanity - this book is well written and I enjoyed both narrators very much. I gave it 4 stars because after reading the summary I thought the author would go more into depths of the "behind the scenes" of the circus. However, that being said, the author captures the diverse characters really well and shows insight to some of the characters that you cannot help but being touched. Despite taking the Lord's name in vain (constantly) and profanity, I did like the book. Ms. Gruen, keep writing, but please refrain from all those bad words!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joy Treganowan 03-24-11 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    109
    2
    Overall
    "One of my very favorite Audible books"

    This is by far one of the best read books I have gotten from Audible, and I've been a member for about 5 years. It's one of those that is more fun to listen to than to read. And, of course the story is excellent Enjoy!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Georgia Midland, TX, United States 03-23-11
    Georgia Midland, TX, United States 03-23-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    15
    1
    Overall
    "Worth the credit!"

    This was a very moving story. Really well written, and the narrators were perfect. I loved the characters, how the author described things, without droning on and on like some authors do. And the ending was perfect, and a little unexpected. I had to swallow back the tears. The only reason I gave it 4 and not 5 stars was because it was slow to get going. With a little patience, you won't be sorry.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura 03-22-11
    Laura 03-22-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    51
    33
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Fabulous!"

    This book was wonderful! The narrators were two of the best! The story was one that I didn't want to be over!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Lewisham, Australia 03-22-11
    Kim Lewisham, Australia 03-22-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    68
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    214
    15
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    1
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great narration"

    I loved this story but the show stealer is really John Randolph Jones with a completely mesmeric narration of the older character. There are some memorable characters, as one would expect in the midst of a 1930s travelling circus. The ending was a bit too cutesy for me and I didn't really buy it, which is why I stopped short of the 5 stars, but its still a quite delightful novel and I would recommend it very highly.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rosalie Trenton, NJ, United States 03-22-11
    Rosalie Trenton, NJ, United States 03-22-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    3
    Overall
    "F A N T A S T I C Get Away!"

    I consider a book good when I'm unable to put it down/turn it off. It took me 3 days to complete. Good Luck with the movie:-)
    Now back to the housework.

    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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