Water for Elephants

It seems like all of the books I own are being made into movies which has motivated me to hurry up and read them so that I can see the movie. This weekend I finished Water for Elephants and I really loved it. I especially enjoy stories that are unique in some way and this one is because I've never read a book that takes place in a circus before. Not only did I love the story, but I learned more about what it would have been like to live during the Great Depression, especially while working with the circus. What a strange and colorful life that would have been. It's an easy read, I finished it in just a couple days. I never lost interest in the story line and it even ended in a way that I liked. I'm usually disappointed with the cliff-hangers and unanswered questions, but not in this book. Sara Gruen is a great writer and I enjoyed the style in which she writes and the way she presented the story. I really became attached to the characters and was more than once inspired by Jacob's commitment to always doing what he felt was right. I will warn you though that there are some very graphic and explicit scenes as well as bad language. The bad scenes are pretty detailed, which is a shame when they could have just been alluded to. So I wouldn't recommend this book to younger people because of that. Overall though, it really is an incredible book and one of the few that I think I'll read again.

Summary: Water for Elephants is the touching story of Jacob Jankowski, a ninety-three-year-old man, who is reminded of his colorful past when a circus sets up next door to his assisted-living center. In his youth, Jacob, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, 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.

Some of the quotes make it sound like a depressing book, which overall it's not, however they just seemed the most quotable and are taken from the 93 year old Jacob. There one's quote that I found very ironic and funny towards the end of the book that I wanted to include, but I can't for the life of me find now that I'm skimming back through it, oh well.


Page 12, "Age is a terrible thief. Just when you're getting the hang of life, it knocks your legs out from under you and stoops your back. It makes you ache and muddies your head and silently spreads cancer throughout your spouse."

Page 13, "Although there are times I'd give anything to have her back, I'm glad she went first. Losing her was like being cleft down the middle. It was the moment it all ended for me, and I wouldn't have wanted her to go through that. Being the survivor stinks."

Page 110, “My real stories are all out of date. So what if I can speak firsthand about the Spanish flu, the advent of the automobile, world wars, cold wars, guerrilla wars, and Sputnik-that’s all ancient history now. But what else do I have to offer? Nothing happens to me anymore.”

2 Response to Water for Elephants

June 8, 2011 at 2:10 AM

I have this on my to-read list (though I've been hesitant because a lot of people are like you and recommend it minus the graphic parts) but I saw the movie and really liked it.

Hey, I am part of a book review blog and we are always looking for people to write guest reviews. Would you maybe be interested?

June 8, 2011 at 1:01 PM

I loved this book too, but also wish those scenes weren't in there. I loved, loved, LOVED Jacob in the senior home! He was my favorite!!

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