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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
24,152109683 (4.07)1 / 869
Title:Water for Elephants: A Novel
Authors:Sara Gruen
Info:Algonquin Books (2007), Edition: Good, 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. 94
    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (LindsayGentles)
  3. 30
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (sturlington)
  4. 30
    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. 41
    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. 41
    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)
  7. 30
    Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (Pax_Biblio)
  8. 20
    At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen (Eowyn1)
  9. 20
    The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day (sibyllacumaea)
  10. 31
    The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (heidilove)
    heidilove: If the power of story compels you, you'll like this as well.
  11. 20
    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.
  12. 10
    The spangled road by Borden Deal (VictoriaPL)
  13. 10
    Holy Fools by Joanne Harris (ecleirs24)
  14. 21
    Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier (PaperbackPirate)
    PaperbackPirate: circus
  15. 10
    One Good Dog by Susan Wilson (SATURNBEAR)
    SATURNBEAR: A great story of animals and people coming together and overcoming painful histories.
  16. 10
    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.
  17. 11
    The Circus Kings: Our Ringling Family Story by Henry Ringling North (geophile)
    geophile: Those reading Water For Elephants might like to read how things really were in the circus, and those reading The Circus Kings, might like to read about the circus in fiction.
  18. 00
    Walking on Air by Pierre Delattre (cammykitty)
  19. 00
    Spangle by Gary Jennings (Cecrow)
  20. 00
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (sturlington)

(see all 30 recommendations)


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English (1,068)  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 (1,092)
Showing 1-5 of 1068 (next | show all)
I like this especially from the perspective of the old man as I recently took on a job working with old people. ( )
  jill1121 | Jun 1, 2019 |
Whimsical story of a vet student whose parents die suddenly. He drops out of Cornell and joins a circus. Has a romance with a horse trainer who he marries. Told from his point of view as an old man.
  JoshSapan | May 29, 2019 |
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. ( )
  FourFreedoms | May 17, 2019 |
The ending. Oh, love, the ending. The entire book was wonderful and beautiful and incredibly hard to put down. I loved Jacob and his stories, but the ending? That made this book a five-star novel instead of four. (Note: I have never seen the movie and put off reading the book because the trailers left me uninterested. I am sorry I waited so long.) ( )
  ladypembroke | May 17, 2019 |
I tried the audio book, but got no further than Chapter 3. Chapter 1, narrated in the voice of a decrepit 90 year old man, was a thoroughly depressing first person account of life in an old folks home. In Chapter 2, the narrator is in his early 20s, and tells in detail of having to identify the corpses of his parents, who were killed in an auto accident. By Chapter 3, the story's interest level picked up, as the narrator jumps a train and joins a circus. But having learned to distrust this work, I went to the reviews, and learned that there's plenty of animal cruelty, especially directed towards the elephant. Clearly, this is not a tale I want to continue with for the next month's worth of commuting. So while I nearly always finish a book that I begin, this one remains an exception. I'm confident from the reviews that this is a meritorious work of fiction, but equally sure that it's not for me. ( )
1 vote danielx | May 9, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 1068 (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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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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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.

» Publisher information page

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