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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 (18404 )
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4.4 (10450 )
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4.6 (10373 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Richard Calgary, AB, Canada 03-17-11
    Richard Calgary, AB, Canada 03-17-11 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    5
    3
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    0
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    Overall
    "Most Enjoyable"

    This is brilliant story brilliantly presented. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can hardly wait for the movie.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erin kingston, NY, United States 03-17-11
    Erin kingston, NY, United States 03-17-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    66
    4
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    0
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    Overall
    "Enchanting..."

    I don't often listen to books under 15 hours,brevity being an illogical choice when paying the same amount of money regardless of minutes, but this book is captivating in the extreme. YES: there is nudity YES: there is sexuality YES: there is heartbreaking cruelty to those who, to this day, have no way to defend themselves. All I know is: complaining about the more graphic segments of this book is about as productive as complaining about the period of time being written about in the story. This is a book as colorful as it is endearing. It gives life to the black&white 3x5 of the human condition during the great depression by showing the joy that was still possible with the discovery of true love. A truly lovely read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KM MO 03-17-11
    KM MO 03-17-11 Listener Since 2008
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    58
    1
    Overall
    "Loved it"

    Thought it was great! The chapters with the older Jacob are so beautifully written and bring so much emotion. Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott A. Dubay 03-17-11 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
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    15
    11
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    "A Surprisingly Pleasurable Experience!!"

    Well written and excellently narrated. Beautiful in its simplicity. Like Jacob, I fell in love with both Marlena and Rosie. Heck, I fell in love with Jacob, too! :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica Kansas City, KS, United States 03-15-11
    Jessica Kansas City, KS, United States 03-15-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    7
    4
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    "Great Book"

    This was so refreshing! I have read so many young adult romance books I almost forgot there was more to look forward to than a kiss good night! This book is well written and the character development is deep and meaningful. This story is well put together and a page turner I could hardly put it down! The love story is great but the life story is even better. This book makes you realize that life’s most important moments are in the struggles and details that pass by in each day.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris West Valley City, UT, United States 03-14-11
    Chris West Valley City, UT, United States 03-14-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    4
    3
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    0
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    "Not able to listen due to graphic sexual content."

    I can't believe I used a credit for this! I could not listen to it. What started out as a greatly engaging story, quickly turned into the most graphic sexual descriptions I have heard in all of my reading. I tried fast-forwarding, turning down the volume, etc. But finally I just turned it off. Those parts were not needed for the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melissa Dayton, OH, United States 03-14-11
    Melissa Dayton, OH, United States 03-14-11 Member Since 2010

    Counselor with eclectic taste, I enjoy all types of fiction, dark, strange and twisted things, humor and explicitly.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
    ratings
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    80
    37
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    10
    Overall
    "LOVED THIS ..."

    Wonderful and one of the best audio book ever...I truly recommended this for any age or gender whether you like historical fiction or something else, anyone can enjoy this story. The narration is brilliant with well developed characters and just an all around beautiful tale that I was oh so sorry to see end; I'll definitely listen again

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Renee Waianae, HI, United States 03-13-11
    Renee Waianae, HI, United States 03-13-11 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    134
    13
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    0
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    "Loved the story!"

    I listen to audible books to be entertained. And this book held my attention through hours of work. I loved the narration and how the story unfolded. I would listen to it again. I didn't mind some of the vulgarity. The story gave you a real sense of what circus life would be like behind the scene. Colorful, gritty, and raw.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Claire Wofford Edgerton, OH 03-09-11
    Claire Wofford Edgerton, OH 03-09-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    53
    ratings
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    52
    13
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    2
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    Overall
    "I can't stop listening!"

    I'm only half way through the book and I can't stop listening....there's something magical about the circus in the 1920-30's depression era.
    This is definitely an ADULT ONLY book...there are some sections of adult content that children and some teens should not hear. Some people who reviewed this book used those sections to based their decision for not liking it, but i think it gives the book a more realistic feel and some of them are funny...well the made me laugh.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MaDonna Victoria, TX, United States 03-07-11
    MaDonna Victoria, TX, United States 03-07-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
    ratings
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    53
    17
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    "WATER FOR ELEPHANTS"

    Really enjoyed this book, wasn't too sure about it in the beginning, but the book shocked me and made me laugh!

    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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