Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review : Water For Elephants

"Keeping up the appearance of having all your marbles is hard work, but important"

- Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants

Synopsis : As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie.

When the film for Water for Elephants came out I heard the buzz, but didn't pay much attention to it. Like any bookworm living on the Internet I was pretty shocked to hear the novel started as a NaNoWriMo.
When the Borders started going out of business I took advantage of the discounted prices and grabbed the novel for 30% off.

The main character is Polish-American Jacob Jankowsi.Water for Elephants switches between Jankowski at age 23 and much later in life at the age of 93. The two perspectives create an interesting dynamic in the novel. There are times you forget the two narratives are connected until a quick allusion the past is made.

There is nothing sexy or glamorous about this circus life. We find out what goes on behind the big top and it isn't always pretty. Gruen picked a perfect time period for this novel. 

There is a lot going on in this novel.It touches on prohibition,The Great Depression, animal cruelty, poverty, greed and the prejudices of class, ethnicity and mental illness.

There were no real stand outs as far as the characters. Jankowski isn't a fully developed character to me. He just always seems to be conflicted and tortured as a person. The elephant, Rosie doesn't show up until well in the book, but she is important to the development of Jankowski.

I really enjoyed this books. I read it in 4 days and was swept away in the storyline. Gruen is my favorite type of writer. At the end of the book she discusses all of the research and obsession that went into the novel. She writes without a script, throws herself into material and that kind of authenticity is amazing to me.

Water for Elephants is an interesting book that will keep you captivated until the very ending. 


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  5. "Water for Elephants" is extremely well written and I am planning to read more of Sara Gruen's work.
    I have ordered two more copies and given them to friends. They have given me very good reports.

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