Thursday, December 30, 2010

Water For Elephants [book review]

I know I'm late to the fun on this one, but I just finished reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which came highly recommended to me from several friends and bloggers. I finished the entire book, cover to cover, in less than a week - started last Friday and finished it Tuesday evening (that's 5 days, people).

the story is told as a series of memories from a ninety (or ninety-three) year old Jacob Jankowski, who is remembering the most magical time of his life while he lives out his days in a nursing home.

taking place during the Great Depression, Water for Elephants is the story of a 20 something year old college student named Jacob. due to a sudden and tragic circumstance, he decides to leave his normal life behind to escape his reality. he hops a train one night and it just so happens to belong to a traveling circus.

once discovered as a veterinary student, the ringleader makes the decision to hire Jacob on as the menagerie's new doctor, which puts him in charge of the show's animals with their various illnesses, mostly due to neglect and mistreatment. his new boss, August, is the head trainer of the animals, and while he is often charming, he tends to be brutal and violent towards the animals, as well as his fellow circus crew. Jacob then meets Marlena, who is not only the star of the horse act, but also married to August. 

the novel takes it's twists and turns as Jacob falls in love with two of the show's biggest stars... Marlena, and Rosie, the bull elephant. the story tells the tale of a great love story, as they overcome great odds and survive during the gritty and depressing time period that is the 1930's, while traveling from town to endless town on the circus train.

I can honestly say that this book is one of the best stories I've ever encountered. I was hooked from the first few pages, and I was continuously illuminated throughout the entire book. to say this book is a page turner would be quite the understatement, and I seriously don't even know that my words here will do this book the justice that it deserves. 

Gruen is such an amazingly brilliant writer. I was instantly impressed with the terms she used to describe the different classes of circus workers, and the lingo seemed to be right on from what I've read regarding the Big Top lifestyle. it's abundantly clear that she did her research. she really makes the time period and the setting come to life... you can just see the big canvased tent and the line of workers waiting for their breakfast on those hot summer days. 

the raw and abrasive misfit performers and surviving working men disgust you and warm your heart at the same time. it's easy to imagine that you're in the crowd when Rosie & Marlena perform their choreographed routine, just like you can see yourself in the menagerie tent when the animals are being brought in from their cabooses of the train. 

from the song the band plays when something goes wrong, to the set up and take down of the show, and the cooch tents and homemade moonshine during the prohibition period... everything is just so carefully explained in a matter that allows your imagination to see this distinct world through a clear looking glass.

the way the characters are described, along with their dialogue, is just... perfection. you get to know and love these people like you know them in real life... you know their personalities and you could probably even imagine what their voices sound like, and what they look like. 

the story is wonderfully written, and it certainly kept me on my toes during the whole five days it took me to read it. being an animal lover, this book was an excellent read, and one I will always recommend to people. 

ALSO, Robert Pattinson & Reese Witherspoon to star in the movie? don't miiiind if I do!


*on another note, I have the day off work tomorrow and will probably not be near the computer. I plan on doing some things around the house (including putting my kitchen back together... finally!), having lunch with Kaley, and ringing in the new year with close friends. I hope you all have a wonderful, safe, and hilarious New Year's Eve! see you guys next year! ;)


  1. I started this awhile ago, but got distracted and stopped. I can't wait to reread it and then you need to let me know ASAP what you think of the Hunger Games, because I LOVE that series. More than the Twilight series! :P

  2. you HAVE to finish it! once you get to the second chapter, you won't be able to put it down... promise!

  3. This one is on my list. I just haven't picked it up yet, but I will now! Thanks for the review!


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