Book review- Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water For Elphants by Sara Gruen

I originally wrote this review in 2007, but with the movie coming our in April, I thought that it would be a good idea to repost.

From the Jacket (Book on CD edtion)

Inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind dwell memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate into 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… Marlena,…was there because she fell in love with the wrong man….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. …”

This book takes the reader inside the life of the “Circus.” (How realistic it is, I can’t really say, having never lived in a circus.) It’s language and terminology: “a first or May,” “A Monday Man” “Rubes”, “Redlighting.” It made me think of the TV show I watched as kid, Circus Boy, (only because it was set in a Circus) actually it was much more like the movie the Greatest Show on Earth.
It carries the reader through a whole range of emotions:

  • Frustration of the frail old Jacob in the nursing home, not being able to remember how old he is (is it 90 or 93?), unable to remember the nurses name, impatience the other patients imperfections. The soft food he was forced to eat because some patients didn’t have teeth, even though he still had all his. Although this is a sad situation Gruen was able to write it in a way that made me smile (I thought of Billy Crystal).
  • Humor of an elephant that had no act and couldn’t follow directions but was able to sneak around the circus grounds un noticed to get the lemon-aid.
  • Anger at the mistreatment of animals and people
  • Passion and action -- walking on the tops of moving train cars, fist fights, etc.
  • the beauty and excitement of animal acts and for me a surprise ending.

A good book- and because I was listening to it on CD was more than one time, I “had” to sit in my car after I got where I as going, in order to listen to the rest of a chapter.

My opinions of the movie that I have not seen and has not been released yet:
The movie stars Hal Holbrook as the old man.  I great choice.
                            Reese Witherspoon, she may be OK, I don't think that would have been my choice
                            Robert Pattinson (Twilight)  I am not sure about this at all.
My recommendation READ THE BOOK before you see the movie.  It was great.

Keep reading JB.



xr4ti_86's picture

Joyce - There has to be

Joyce -

There has to be some irony in the fact that you put keep reading as your signature, but yet you listened to the book on tape. So I think you should change it to keep listening. Wink

Tessa's picture

Listening is the new reading?

Whether we "read" by listening to someone else read or reading it ourselves, it's a great book and a great review.  Thanks, Joyce!



janedb's picture

Great Review

I listened to the audiobook, as well, and loved it.  I am making plant to see it in Ann Arbor, because it's not in Jackson.  Both of our cinemas show the same blockbuster hits.  Can't we have one screen for other films?