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Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants: A Novel (2006)

by Sara Gruen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
21,881102961 (4.08)1 / 810
  1. 81
    Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (Pax_Biblio, starfishian)
  2. 83
    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (LindsayGentles)
  3. 20
    Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (Pax_Biblio)
  4. 31
    Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster (Smiler69)
    Smiler69: Set during the Great Depression, a young boy is taught how to fly to become part of a travelling vaudeville act.
  5. 20
    The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin (Alliebadger)
    Alliebadger: Both well-written stories about the performing life. Very different sides of it, and in very different time periods, but both well-written and exciting.
  6. 10
    The spangled road by Borden Deal (VictoriaPL)
  7. 10
    Holy Fools by Joanne Harris (ecleirs24)
  8. 32
    Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (shesinplainview)
  9. 10
    At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen (Eowyn1)
  10. 21
    The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (heidilove)
    heidilove: If the power of story compels you, you'll like this as well.
  11. 10
    The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day (sibyllacumaea)
  12. 10
    Cat Man: A Novel by Edward Hoagland (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Considered by some (in the business) to be the best (most accurate) circus novel ever written.
  13. 21
    Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier (PaperbackPirate)
    PaperbackPirate: circus
  14. 00
    Walking on Air by Pierre Delattre (cammykitty)
  15. 11
    Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Though Gruen's story is fiction and Hillenbrand's journalistic nonfiction, both reveal relationships between humans and animals in the Great Depression's entertainment field. Each describes the backstage training, care, and abuse of performing animals and people in candid, engaging language.… (more)
  16. 00
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (sturlington)
  17. 00
    Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Readers of Water for Elephants may enjoy reading this memoir of farm life during the Great Depression; though the experiences are rather different, Little Heathens offers a complementary view of the period.
  18. 00
    One Good Dog by Susan Wilson (SATURNBEAR)
    SATURNBEAR: A great story of animals and people coming together and overcoming painful histories.
  19. 00
    The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson (joririchardson)
  20. 11
    Madame Zee by Pearl Luke (bucketyell)

(see all 28 recommendations)


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English (1,004)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (4)  French (2)  Norwegian (2)  Finnish (2)  Danish (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (1,026)
Showing 1-5 of 1004 (next | show all)
4.5 stars. This story is told in two voices, the old man, and the man as he was when he was much younger. Both narrators do a great job on a great story. A real pleasure to listen to! ( )
  BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
I'd heard so much about this book over the years, including raves from some of my favorite authors. A friend loaned her copy to me and I was eager to get into it. The story is great, but I can't rave about this book. I hate that I can't, because there's no real reason. I don't think it was all the hype, either. There was just something that kept me from really connecting with this book, even though I was engaged with the story and wanted to know what happened. Jacob, the main character, just didn't seem that real to me. I felt like I should have known him better, yet when he did certain things, I couldn't understand his reasoning for it. That being said, this is a good book, and the ending more than made up for anything I was feeling throughout the story. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
An amazing book . . one that opened, for me, a world filled with roustabouts, grouch bags, bulls, rubes, cooch tents and Specs! A work of fiction, Water for Elephants was, nevertheless, meticulously researched (it shows!) and vividly portrayed by author Sara Gruen. The author's attention to detail lent an air of reality to the hierarchical, hardscrabble and violent Depression Era circus environment. The use of first-person flashback narrative kept me engaged from cover-to-cover.
If you're looking for a lighthearted look at the world of prancing ponies, sparkling sequins and cotton candy, this isn't the book for you. Gritty, delightful, steamy, touching, profane, endearing, heart-wrenching, heartwarming and historically accurate - I loved it.
As I've done with previous books, I combined the ebook and the audiobook formats - reading along with the audiobook. If you must choose between the two formats, I highly recommend the audiobook version of Water for Elephants; it brought the flashback aspect of the story to life! ( )
  idajo2 | Nov 3, 2015 |
If I had to tell someone a "Favorite book" This is my go to. I tell everyone to read this!!! Read the book first then the movie!! I read this entire thing within days. I loooved it. I loved the fluency of the writing. I loved the animals and circus fun and I loved the romance!! ( )
  MorganWernette | Oct 27, 2015 |
LMIC book club; about a small traveling circus in the depression years ( )
  nancynova | Sep 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 1004 (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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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
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)
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

AR Level 4.4, 14 pts
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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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Average: (4.08)
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3 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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