Water for Elephants: A Novel

Sara Gruen
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell. Jacob was there because his luck had run out—orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive "ship of fools." It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act—in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival. Surprising, poignant, and funny, Water for Elephants is that rare novel with a story so engrossing, one is reluctant to put it down; with characters so engaging, they continue to live long after the last page has been turned; with a world built of wonder, a world so real, one starts to breathe its air.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2020-06-29
So well researched, it's impossible to believe it's fiction. Not to mention the wonderfully way the story is framed and written.
Reviewed: 2019-05-17
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.
Reviewed: 2018-07-02
I really had a hard time putting this book down after I started; it was not what I was expecting. I thought it was more like a romance novel (i.e. not my cup of tea), but the prologue with the murder seen drew me in quickly and I had to keep reading to find out what happened. I also got insight into the life of the folks on a traveling circus: the social structures, treatment of the animals, treatment of the people, marketing of a circus (even when one of your main attractions pass away). I also appreciated the pictures of old circuses in between the chapters to illustrate different aspects of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.    
Reviewed: 2018-04-13
I had picked this book because of the reviews I had seen on Goodreads.

Overall, I enjoyed this title. But for me, I didn't gain a full interest until I had gotten about 2/3 in.

I just couldn't connect with the characters - I felt they lacked depth.
The story? This is where my interest began to peak. There were many parts in which I just wanted to put the book down – the abuse was hard for me to get through, but this also told me that that the author was not going to sugar-coat the atrocities and corruptions that were common during this time and in this environment. This assured me that this would indeed be a story that I remembered for some time.

Having completed the book, I could see myself suggesting Water for Elephants to someone looking for something different to read. I would have liked to rate this higher, but due to the lacking substance of the characters, and the amount of time it took become interested, I have to give this 3 of 5 stars.
Reviewed: 2017-12-07
Definitely not let down by the hype of the book. Very intersting and well put together. Sara Gruen paints marvelous pictures for the reader to get lost in within the wild world of the circus. Can't wait to see the movie!
Reviewed: 2017-08-29
Book Description Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell. Jacob was there because his luck had run out--orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive "ship of fools." It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act--in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival. Surprising, poignant, and funny, Water for Elephants is that rare novel with a story so engrossing, one is reluctant to put it down; with characters so engaging, they continue to live long after the last page has been turned; with a world built of wonder, a world so real, one starts to breathe its air.
Reviewed: 2017-06-01

I cannot for the life of me figure out what, exactly, made this book such a phenomenon. All the circus incidents feel like disconnected, fantastical things put together, and they are; they're based on history, but far too condensed to be believable, none explored or expounded upon in any significant manner. I don't buy the romance since the development wasn't there. It is quaint to read this book now that Ringling Bros. is shut down, but other than that.... meh? The writing is super meh.

Overall: It was okay. It's definitely no Hunger Games.

Reviewed: 2017-05-25
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