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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

Critic Reviews

  • 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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    11,196
  • 4 Stars
    5,260
  • 3 Stars
    1,765
  • 2 Stars
    477
  • 1 Stars
    337

Performance

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    7,614
  • 4 Stars
    2,441
  • 3 Stars
    640
  • 2 Stars
    147
  • 1 Stars
    121

Story

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    6,717
  • 4 Stars
    2,781
  • 3 Stars
    1,073
  • 2 Stars
    291
  • 1 Stars
    180
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  • 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!

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Kim
  • Lewisham, Australia
  • 03-22-11

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

  • Overall
  • Rosalie
  • Trenton, NJ, United States
  • 03-22-11

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.

  • Overall

Absolutely touching!

Being a senior citizen, I listened to this story from the old man's point of view, and found it very touching. Yes, there were explicit scenes, but that's a young man speaking about his lifes experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and cheered at the end!

  • Overall
  • C
  • 03-20-11

Great great book.

Can't wait for the movie. They better not screw it up and they better have a great Rosie.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Kimberly
  • Santa Rosa Beach, FL, United States
  • 03-20-11

"Water for the ABUSED Elephant"

I really wanted to love this book but the repeated cruelty to the animals and women made it impossible for me to do so. The story is sad, despite the "happy" ending - the characters are lost and forlorn, with no real hope for a better life. I am not deterred by a tragic story but for some reason, I thought this book was going to be uplifting, and it's not. That being said, it is extremely well written, with incredible imagery. I will look forward to reading others of Sara Gruen's books - she has a magical grasp of language.

  • Overall

Dual narrators excellent

The old and young narrators both did a really good job on this audio book. Obviously the young sections were where all the action happened but the older rememberance tied it all together and added a layer of a life well lived... and then what? It was a good listen.

  • Overall

Great Book! Can't wait for the movie!

This was a great book...and that says a lot since this is the very first review I have ever written despite having listened to hundreds of audio books over the last 5 years! Not normally my genre of choice but I downloaded it because 1) it was on sale for $5 and 2) it is being made into a movie so I figured a few people had to think it was a good book. The arthor brought the characters to life in full color. Listening to it was like watching it in my mind on a movie screen. I can't say enough about this book. It was worth every penny! And more than I paid for it. So glad I made the leap of faith and downloaded it.

  • Overall
  • jessica
  • SMYRNA, TN, United States
  • 03-18-11

Absolutely the best book of our time!!!!

I have bragged about this book to everyone! Give it a chance! I smiled more while I listened to it. I even giggled out loud with excitement at a few parts. The narrarator made the book come to life with the different accents and with such recognizable emotion in his tone. I can easily say this is one of my favorite books.

  • Overall
  • Richard
  • Calgary, AB, Canada
  • 03-17-11

Most Enjoyable

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