Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is one of those books that everyone tells you, "read it, you'll love it, it's like nothing you've ever read before." I have to agree on one thing, it was completely unique to anything I had ever read before.

Synopsis: An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.

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.

I believe my expectations of Water for Elephants was simply too high, because I came out the other side let down. The mood throughout the book left me very tense, and even melancholy. The characters seemed in a perpetual state of suffering and sacrifice. It was like a war between the different classes in the hierarchy of the circus people. The Great Depression was not only a background but a reality for the circus, as the lower class never had enough to eat. There was raging alcoholism and depression. Finally, one of the reasons I don't go to the circus myself, is that worry that the animals were not being treated kindly.

On the other hand, I have to say, with many books on the shelves that all seem to be different degrees of sameness, Water for Elephants stands on its own. It truly is unique, and I had to appreciate the writing skill, and development of the characters. This is not a book I would talk someone out of reading, certainly not. In fact, I welcome you to read this book and share your thoughts with me. This would be a great Book Club read.


Miss Remmers said...

I have had this on my TBR pile for a while but this is one of the first reviews I've seen of it! Thank you!

top recommended Second Wave Recycling Donate Cell Phone website said...

Wonderful book! I've learned so much about circus life in the 30's, plus it's a good story, strong characters, beautifully written, fast moving.

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