Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Books Completed: 15
Completion Date: January 29, 2007
Publication Year: 2006
Pages: 352
Purchased in 2007

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.

Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible
odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.

I wanted to love this book. I actually read it in a day, so you would think that I loved it. I found it a worthwhile read, though. I have never been to a circus before. I do not exactly live in an area of the world where things of this sort even exist, so it is not something I have ever experienced. I know what a circus is, of course, I just have never seen one off of television. Reading this book was a chance to see what it was like to work in a circus, not just to see one.

One of my favourite features of this book were the actual cirucus photos at the beginning of every new chapter. It was interesting to see the faces of the circus performers from backing this time period. Circuses are still around, but they are nothing like what they were back in the time that this book takes place in. It is hard to say if that is a good thing or a bad thing, though, it depends on how you look at it.

First, though, I have to say that the reason I did not love this book was because I did not like the main character. He just annoyed me. I am not even sure why, I just could not grow to like him. He got better by the end, but the way that he does things and the way that he acted during the course of the novel drove me crazy! I was surprised to learn that Marlena was younger than him because she acted a considerable amount older. Here I was reading it as a younger man and older woman, and then you read her background story, and it is not that way at all. Jacob was my annoyance with this book, though. If his character was different, I likely would have loved this book.

I understand that he had to be a bit of a goody two shoes, though, in order to offset the horrible life of the men in the cirucs. He had come from a decent background, so he was obviously different from these men. If his parents had not taken out a second mortage to put him through vet school, or if they had never had the accident, he would have never even have found himself living with the circus. He needed to be different, though, to show how horrible people like August, Marlena's husband, were.

It is interesting to note that my favourite character in this entire book was an elephant. That's right, you heard me, an elephant. That elephant was great! I loved how she was written, and I loved her personality. She was great. Even if I hated the rest of the book, she would make it all worthwhile.

While I did not overly like Jacob, I still really liked this book, so even though I do not think I can give it a 5, I can give it a 4.5/5.

Authors Gender:
Female: 14
Male: 1

This is my first time reading this author.


  1. Great review, Kailana! I keep going back and forth about reading this book--and even seeking out a copy, to be honest. I'm slowly coming around . . . :-)

  2. I read this book last fall and was quite disappointed by it.

    I agree that the pictures at the start of each chapter were great.

  3. It seems like there are either glowing reviews or negative reviews on this book. Now I have to read it to see if I like it or not ;)

  4. After seeing this book in the store for so many months, I finally picked it up three days ago. I read the whole book in a span of two days and I was amazed. I was happy that I held off on buying the book since it gave me a hunger to read it right away. If you buy this book you won't be let down.


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