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Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Sara Gruen, David LeDoux (Reader), John Randolph Jones (Reader)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
21,01399668 (4.09)1 / 762
Title:Water for Elephants
Authors:Sara Gruen
Other authors:David LeDoux (Reader), John Randolph Jones (Reader)
Info:HighBridge Company (2006), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD
Collections:Your library

Work details

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2006)

  1. 71
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(see all 24 recommendations)


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English (974)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (4)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (2)  French (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Finnish (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  German (1)  All languages (994)
Showing 1-5 of 974 (next | show all)
I read the first half of this book in a matter of days, and the second half in a matter of hours. I haven't been able to put it down. It is fascinating, historic, eye-opening. The impact of having a spouse who is abusive is just as strong as the impact of an animal being abused in this book. The romance of the circus is shattered among the secrets and the truth behind it. The glitz and glamour of performers that we so often can't get enough of are scuffed by the truth we are so often blind to. I will read this book again and again, I'm sure. ( )
  KRaySaulis | Aug 13, 2014 |
I loved this book. As soon as I started reading it I couldn't hardly put it down. It's a great story about how love prevails. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good romance and drama story. ( )
  Tiffy83 | Aug 11, 2014 |
I borrowed this book from my friend one summer and I really loved it. I had already seen the movie and since she had the book, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm so glad I did! This book effortlessly switches from elderly Jacob to young Jacob and, to be honest, I love both version of the character equally. Elderly Jacob is hilarious yet sad. His wit made me smile while I was reading it - probably not a good thing because I was reading it whilst at my friend's place. Right away, I grew attached to the characters. Also, there were more plot twists in the book than there is in the film (which I was expecting). I was so engrossed in the book that I zoned out. Just like that. When my friend was giving away her books, I jumped at the chance to own her copy. "But you've already read it," she'd said. Ya, well, I wanted to be able to read it again. I highly recommend this. It's intricate, complex and heartbreaking yet heartwarming. ( )
  CaitlinAC | Aug 10, 2014 |
Love the book, hate the movie. Hate is probably the wrong word since I stopped watching the movie 30 minutes in and cannot speak to the remainder of the film. How can Hollywood take a perfectly written story that even opens itself up for easy adaptation to the big screen and completely bungle it? I know.... you want to know what I think about the book, not the botched movie job. Well, okay.

Gruen has taken the concept of a Depression era circus and provided the reader with a wonderful historical fiction piece steeped in nostalgia, romance, hard nose business tactics along with the weaknesses and fallibility of human nature. Jacob is no Robert Pattinson - you thought I was going to drop the movie references, didn't you? - he is a young man with his entire life before him and no clear path to move forward given the fateful circumstances that arise. I absolutely love the narration.... give me crusty old narrators any day of the week! It brought back fond memories of my experience reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, a story that did jump wonderfully from book to screen. Gruen has a eye for detail and a way with words that allows the reader to experience the story as though it was actually unfolding before them. I also learned an awful lot about the Depression era, circus lingo and how during that time period, the majority of people looked after themselves. Kind of scary to think we may be tipping that way now.

Overall, this makes the second circus themed book that I have been pleasantly surprised with, the other one being The Night Circus, which is a completely different story and cannot be compared with Water for Elephants. My recommendation is to read the book, savor the story and completely by-pass the movie. ( )
  lkernagh | Aug 6, 2014 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 974 (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.
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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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Group Read (August): Water for Elephants in 2014 Category Challenge

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Average: (4.09)
0.5 14
1 80
1.5 18
2 269
2.5 86
3 1053
3.5 376
4 2813
4.5 429
5 2703


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