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Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
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Water for Elephants (2006)

by Sara Gruen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
20,93199169 (4.09)753
  1. 71
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  10. 10
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  11. 10
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(see all 24 recommendations)

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» See also 753 mentions

English (969)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (4)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (2)  French (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Finnish (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  German (1)  All languages (989)
Showing 1-5 of 969 (next | show all)
As much as I did not like this book in the beginning, it really grew on me. I'm not sure if there were just too many interruptions in the story line, or what, but the further in I got, the more enjoyable it became, and the less we were dealing with the main character's current self.

It is a really, PAINFULLY slow start though. I mean, after you get past that part, you breeze through. The action starts to pick up and things begin to fall into place. I think the main difficulty with the first few chapters or so is that you're trying to get background information to help set the scene, but you're being interrupted as soon as you're starting to get a grasp on what's going on or how important it may or may not be later in the book, and then POP you're back with old man Jacob who is confused and a little afraid because he's losing his mind a bit (no more than would be expected of a 93 year old man). You, in turn, become a little confused too until you are going back down memory lane with him.

Also, and note that I don't suggest under most circumstances, later in the book, after they get Rosie, keep your computer by you. Hell, even in the beginning a bit, it'd be nice to have. There's a good deal of Polish in here. Now, normally, I wouldn't have a problem with Polish. I can usually figure out what's going on in a conversation, but I can't read Polish. It was nice to have Google Translate handy to help out with that.

I don't normally suggest this either, but, when you're done, read the author's note. There's some surprising information in there! ( )
  cebellol | Jul 22, 2014 |
This is one of my favorite books. It is so incredibly poignant. The male protagonist is such a likable character that you endure each obstacle together. I personally cried in the theater because they showed him as an old man wanting to join the circus. ( )
  aliterarylion | Jul 14, 2014 |
Sad read, disturbing at times, with a happy ending. 5 stars for pacing and suspense. ( )
  twerkysandwich | Jul 10, 2014 |
Eh. It was fine. The writing is workmanlike, and the story is laid out step by step, the reader adds nothing. The tone (though not the story) is rather YA. I once saw about 5 minutes of the movie and found it absolutely unwatchable, but this was better. I have nothing more to say. ( )
  Narshkite | Jun 23, 2014 |
Amazing book. I loved it. ( )
  AMANDALAWR3NCE | Jun 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 969 (next | show all)
It's a favorite of book clubs and reading groups, and is supposedly rife with parallels between the protagonist, Jacob Jankowski and Jacob, grandson of Abraham, in the Bible. I wish one of you would tell me what they are. They are not obvious to me, other than a cryptic "Jacob's ladder" parallel to the ladder on the train cars that give access to the roof and that will be important late in the story. What is obvious to me is this is a book about memory, something elephants are famous for and something humans are famous for treating as reliable when it isn't.
added by paradoxosalpha | editDaily Kos, Limelite (Jul 28, 2011)
 
WOW! This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for longer than I care to admit. Something about it drew me in enough to buy it but there always seemed to be something else that I would rather be reading so, it sat and sat and sat. I am so glad that I finally challenged myself to read it because it has to be one of my favourite books in a LOOOOOOONG time. What a great story.

While I know that the book is a work of fiction, it really did feel like I was right there, in the circus, with Jacob, Marlena and August. I could see each of them (and of course Jacob was as yummy as Edward ~Robert Pattinson~), I could touch the animals, hear the music and feel the crunch of the peanuts beneath my feet. I loved that each of the chapters started with a picture showing the history of the circus because it brought me to the right time frame in my mind. The movement between Jacob as a 90 (or 93) year old in a nursing home and Jacob as a man in his early 20's were seemless. In some novels past, the 'current' story seemed forced and very out of place but here, it was a welcome part of the story.

Overall, I feel like this is a book that anyone would enjoy. Whether you are an adult, a child, a tween, a senior, this book will delight you! It is a fast, fun read. Please pick it up and spend some time aboard the train with the 'Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth'.
 
At its finest, "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. But Gruen's prose is merely serviceable, and she hurtles through cataclysmic events, overstuffing her whiplash narrative with drama (there's an animal stampede, two murders and countless fights).
 
What goes on under the big top is nothing compared with the show backstage.
added by Shortride | editTime, Lev Grossman (Jul 16, 2006)
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sara Gruenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, John RandolphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
LeDoux, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manson,CharlesJacket Photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werner, Honijacket designsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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People/Characters
Important places
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Epigraph
I meant what I said, and I said what I meant...
An elephant's faithful--one hundred per cent!
--Theodor Seuss Geisel, Horton Hatches the Egg, 1940
Dedication
For Bob, still my secret weapon
First words
I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.
Only three people were left under the red and white awning of the grease joint: Grady, me, and the fry cook. (Prologue)
The idea for this book came unexpectedly: In early 2003 I was gearing up to write an entirely different book when the Chicago Tribune ran an article on Edward J. Kelty, a photographer who followed traveling circuses around America in the 1920s and '30s. (Author's Note)
Quotations
Is where you’re from the place you’re leaving or where you have roots?
I wasn’t aware of dozing, but that’s how it goes these days. I seem to slip in and out of time and space.
With a secret like that, at some point the secret itself becomes irrelevant. The fact that you kept it does not.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Jacob Jankowski is left without money and family when his parents are killed suddenly in an automobile accident. He leaves veterinarian school right before he finishes his final exam and accidentally becomes the veterinarian for the Benzini Brothers Circus. There he meets Rosie the Elephant and Marlene, a beautiful (and married) performer in the circus.
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A novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932. When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.--From publisher description.… (more)

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