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!
Title: 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.