Audiobook Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

In honor of tomorrow’s DVD release of the film version of Water for Elephants, I am rerunning my review. Be sure and come back tomorrow for my review of the film version and a fantastic DVD/book bundle giveaway!

waterforelephantsTitle: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: I own the book, but I checked the audiobook out from the library.
Audiobook reader: David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones
First line: I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.

Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob Jankowski, and is told as a series of flashbacks, memories that Jacob is having while living inside a nursing home. The audiobook I listened two had two readers, one for the old Jacob, and one for the 23-year-old Jacob – and they were both absolutely fabulous.

It’s the middle of the Depression. Jacob is in his final year of veterinary school at Cornell University when he receives the news that his parents have been killed in a car accident. Returning home for the funeral, Jacob discovers that his father’s veterinary practice – which he planned on joining after graduation – is mortgaged to the hilt and now owned by the bank, as is the family home. Having nowhere else to go, Jacob returns to Cornell, but is too grief-stricken and flees in the middle of the final exam. Hopping a train, Jacob finds himself in the midst of working men on the Benzini Brothers Greatest Show on Earth, a circus. His knowledge of veterinary science earns him a place on the show.

Jacob meets August and Marlena, a married couple on the show. August is in charge of the menagerie; Marlena is a performer. Jacob becomes friends with the couple, and soon discovers that their marriage is less than happy. August’s unstable and violent temper has everyone on the show afraid of him – including his wife, Marlena. In spite of her unavailability, Jacob falls for Marlena, and the ripples of consequences begin.

Sara Gruen has written a gorgeous novel full of delicious imagery and descriptions of what life on a circus was like. The book is full of the most unique characters, from the chillingly evil August, to the feisty dwarf Walter and his beloved dog, Queenie. Gruen’s love of animals also comes through, especially in the elephant, Rosie. I’m not much of an animal person, but I came to love Rosie and her quirks.

I loved this book, from it’s beginning to it’s ending, which had me wiping tears away. Highly recommended.

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36 Responses to Audiobook Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I loved this book too! Very bittersweet at times. I hate the idea of that poor man sitting in that home with no visitors. Breaks my heart.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Monday Movie Meme – Reunited and it feels so good =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – I know, I kept getting so angry at his family for neglecting him like that!

  2. Kathy says:

    That’s it – I’ve got to get to this book ASAP!
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Books Bought =-.

  3. I loved this book too! I thought the ending was so good. Such a good story.
    .-= Jackie (Farm Lane Books)´s last blog ..Cloudstreet – Tim Winton =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Jackie – I absolutely loved the ending – I thought there for a while the ending was going in a different direction, and I was a happily surprised.

  4. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit
    says:

    I’ve heard great things about this book. Thanks for the great review.
    .-= Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)´s last blog ..Mailbox Monday #41 =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Serena – I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to – it was wonderful!

  5. Pingback: Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen | BOOKS AND MOVIES | bookreview

  6. I am glad you enjoyed this one. It’s been on my must read list for quite a while now. One of these days I will get to it. :-) Thanks for the great review!
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..Monday At the Movies: A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      LF – I’ve noticed it’s on a lot of people’s to-read lists. :)

  7. stacybuckeye says:

    Great review. I know I should read this – everyone seems to love it – but the bittersweet/tears part always makes me look elsewhere.
    .-= stacybuckeye´s last blog ..Alan Rickman Was In That? Quiz =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Stacy – sometimes I like to read a book that I know will make me cry – it’s cathartic. :)

  8. Laura @ ImBookingIt
    Twitter: bookingit
    says:

    I’m glad I read this for one of my book clubs, because I’m not sure I would have picked it up otherwise, and it was a really good read.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it too.
    .-= Laura @ ImBookingIt´s last blog ..Mailbox Monday =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Laura – I can’t remember why I picked it up – I think it was at a library sale and I just liked the cover. Then I never got around to reading it, so when I saw the library had it on audio, I went that direction instead.

  9. JoAnn
    Twitter: lakesidemusing
    says:

    Oh, I loved this book, too! It was an excellent audio.

  10. Ladybug says:

    I would love to read this book although it breaks my heart to think of all the people who actually live in homes and have no visitors :( Thanks for the great review!
    .-= Ladybug´s last blog ..Tuesday – August 4th. =-.

  11. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna
    says:

    I honestly didn’t expect to like this book, but I ended up really enjoying it. Nice review!
    .-= S. Krishna´s last blog ..Nothing But Ghosts – Beth Kephart =-.

  12. heidenkind says:

    I also loved this book. It’s not what a usually read by a long shot, but it’s so well-written and entertaining, it just sucks you right in! I’m glad you liked it. :-)
    .-= heidenkind´s last blog ..Tea–Comfort or Madness? =-.

  13. Deanna says:

    I read this book last summer. I did not like this one very much and it seems that I am in the minority. There were parts that I did appreciate and like but overall…not a read for me.
    Liked your review, always interesting to others view-points.
    .-= Deanna´s last blog ..Uglies by Scott Westerfeld =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Deanna – thanks for saying that about other people’s viewpoints – I had a comment earlier today that said since I thought Wings was better than Twilight, I was out of touch and shouldn’t be writing reviews. Nice to know not everyone feels that way about a blogger whose opinions are different than their own.

  14. I loved it too. It was on my radar for a while, and I got to read it when it was in the library of a vacation home we rented. That was a part of the experience for me!

    I had checked out the audiobook one time, and didn’t think that I’d like the narrator (I usually check them out before I buy/download), but I’m sure that it was a good listen.
    .-= Jennifer, Snapshot´s last blog ..Julie Powell, the Ulitmate Blogger Success Story =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Jennifer – If the whole book had been read by the “old” version of Jacob, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as well, but his voice fit well for the modern day portions.

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  21. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies
    says:

    Charles – I’m glad you commented – I’ve always wondered about Gruen’s previous books. I think I’ll give them a pass.

  22. Pingback: Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen on Freado by Reader Demand! | Freado Blog

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