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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 ratingMentions
20,608None70 (4.09)742
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)

1930s (165) 2007 (102) 2008 (96) 2011 (65) aging (154) animals (271) book club (208) circus (1,408) circus life (79) depression (143) depression era (104) elephant (71) elephants (319) fiction (1,859) Great Depression (417) historical (96) historical fiction (588) Kindle (72) love (195) love story (100) novel (173) nursing homes (65) old age (66) own (66) read (238) read in 2008 (64) romance (316) to-read (245) trains (73) unread (69)
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» See also 742 mentions

English (954)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (4)  Norwegian (2)  French (2)  Finnish (2)  Danish (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (975)
Showing 1-5 of 954 (next | show all)
Depression Era is probably one of my favourite historical fiction eras to read. This was no exception. I've been to circuses before but nothing quite as authentic as this. There's just something so majestic about the story.

I also really like that the main character was a veterinarian and really goes to bat for the animals. Circuses are infamously known for being really cruel to animals. I liked that this one focused on really caring for them. ( )
  ashleeeyyy88 | Apr 15, 2014 |
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is interesting to me in that it falls into so many different book genres such as historical fiction, suspense, romance, and even perhaps a little on the dark side.

Jacob Jankowski is a veterinarian major in college when his parents are killed in an accident. Left penniless, with only a few weeks left to finish school, he runs off and joins the circus, The Benzini Brothers Greatest Show on Earth. He is hired on as head veterinarian (despite his failure to obtain his degree) and soon falls in love with Marlena, the beautiful equestrienne star who happens to be married to the boss. When the show, which is set in the 1930's Depression era, begins to falter financially the boss buys an elephant named Rosie who brings the characters together in an unexpected way.

The characters are believable, whimsical, sometimes dark and you either love them or hate them. I think my favorite character was Rosie the elephant who at first refuses to do anything the trainers tell her to do until Jacob discovers her secret. The case of the animals as a whole is not unlike the feeling of how circus animals are portrayed today and I feel like that is a major influence in the book.

The book as a whole, toggles between the present and the past, not unlike Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook where the main character, in this case Jacob Jankowski who is either 90 or 93, is a nursing home resident remembering his past in one chapter then revealing the hardships of his present state in the next.

I found the book to be a fast paced, suspenseful novel that was well researched and written. I enjoyed it very much and now I must see the movie. The Redbox didn't have it though and it's no wonder since the movie came out in 2011. I'm way behind in the times on this one.

Published in 2006 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Water for Elephants remained on the New York Times Bestseller list for six weeks, and was nominated for numerous awards including the illustrious Quill Award, the Entertainment Weekly Best Novel award, and won the BookBrowse award in 2007 for most popular book. ( )
  clayhollow | Apr 8, 2014 |
This book is about a traveling circus in Depression-era America.

It got a lot of buzz and hype several years ago, and was made into a movie that I have not seen.

I enjoyed the book and whizzed through it, and while it was good, I didn't think it lived up to the hype. ( )
  bookwoman247 | Mar 25, 2014 |
I really loved this story. I was hooked immediately and really empathized with the characters. I could "feel" those fight scenes - described so well by the author; and I felt the pain and dizziness in the aftermath. It usually takes me a while to get through a book -I'm not the fastest reader but this book I finished very quickly. Really couldn't put it down! ( )
  ei214 | Mar 23, 2014 |

I enjoyed this book, or at least almost all of it, there were some parts which I found a lot slower, and I had trouble getting into it at first, but overall it was a good read, and I liked the characters a lot.

For an more in depth review and a movie review please visit my blog at http://www.thebooktower.webs.com ( )
  bookish92 | Mar 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 954 (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.)
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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)

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