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Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants: A Novel (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Sara Gruen

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
24,028108882 (4.07)1 / 868
Title:Water for Elephants: A Novel
Authors:Sara Gruen
Info:Algonquin Books (2007), Paperback, 350 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen (2006)

  1. 91
    Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (Pax_Biblio, starfishian)
  2. 93
    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (LindsayGentles)
  3. 30
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (sturlington)
  4. 20
    The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 20
    Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (Pax_Biblio)
  7. 31
    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)
  8. 10
    The spangled road by Borden Deal (VictoriaPL)
  9. 10
    Holy Fools by Joanne Harris (ecleirs24)
  10. 10
    At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen (Eowyn1)
  11. 21
    The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (heidilove)
    heidilove: If the power of story compels you, you'll like this as well.
  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. 10
    The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day (sibyllacumaea)
  14. 33
    Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg (Cecilturtle)
  15. 00
    One Good Dog by Susan Wilson (SATURNBEAR)
    SATURNBEAR: A great story of animals and people coming together and overcoming painful histories.
  16. 00
    Walking on Air by Pierre Delattre (cammykitty)
  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
    The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson (joririchardson)
  19. 11
    The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley (Hibou8)
  20. 00
    The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block (terrybanker)

(see all 28 recommendations)


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English (1,062)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (4)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Finnish (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Danish (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (1,086)
Showing 1-5 of 1062 (next | show all)
This book seems to be highly rated but I just have not been able to develop any interest in it after Reading the covers and the cover jacket, contemplating, and then reading the first seven pages. ( )
  ShiraDest | Mar 6, 2019 |
Why I Stopped Reading on p. 32: I have this thing about first person narratives. The voice has to be standout, or I can't get into the book (when I possibly could have, were the story told in third person). The voice of this narrator isn't convincingly male; plus it seems to want to "sound literary," but in the first ten percent of the book I didn't encounter a single original wordsmithing phrase. So I watched the movie, figuring if I found myself investing in the characters (despite Pattinson) I would give the book another try. Nope. Nothing about this story makes me want to keep reading.
  AmandaGStevens | Mar 2, 2019 |
I enjoyed the narrative of the old man in the nursing home as he describes his feelings about aging and looks back at some scenes from his life, and the look at the harsh world of the circus in the 30s was intriguing. This book would have been a 4 for me except for some graphic sex scenes. Because others mentioned those I was on the lookout and was able to skip them for the most part. ( )
  tkcs | Feb 23, 2019 |
This book held up on even a second reading. It's magical and spectacular, even while being dark and gritty. It's a romance not involving just a woman and a man; but involving a fierce love of animals. The poor poor circus animals. Honestly, that's the hardest part I had with the book, I get that this was set during the twenties, however, I hate reading about animal cruelty and these poor exotic animals (especially the elephant, Rosie) can't seem to catch a break, no matter what Jacob does.

After finding out about his parent's tragic death and the loss of the family homestead, Jacob walks out of Cornell, one week away from receiving his diploma. He steals away on a train, not realizing that it was a circus one. Right before he is about to get thrown off the train, they realize that he is a veterinarian (albeit it one without a degree) and hire him on the spot. He starts to fall for the circus routine, the animals, and the beautiful Marlena (who is very off limits, being married to the menagerie manager). As a vet he is able to socialize with both groups of the circus, the workers and the performers. He quickly becomes well liked, which is a dangerous position to be in, when the manager is keeping an eye on you... and his wife.

Beautifully brought to life and captivating, reading all about the circus was fascinating and even though I can't get on board with the animal stuff, I love to read all about it. A wonderful historical fiction novel that readers across the board will love. ( )
  ecataldi | Feb 18, 2019 |
A story about a well remembered life with lots of adventure. This book takes "running away with the circus" to a realistic examination of the circus life in 1930. The first person voice tells his story of tragedy, evil, love, friendship, growing from adversity and his love and care for exotic animals. The book kept my interest with the twisting tale and fun characters. A worthy read for all of the diverse issues with which it deals. ( )
  DonaldPowell | Feb 5, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 1062 (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)
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 editionscalculated
Jones, John RandolphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
LeDoux, DavidNarratorsecondary 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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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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)

(summary from another edition)

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Average: (4.07)
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2 309
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HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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