Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Review of 'Water for Elephants' by Sara Gruen

"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. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival."

I had heard many talk about this book before, but my interest only peaked when my mom had to read it for her book club. While she was reading it, she would be next to me and she would read me the parts that were interesting to her. Whenever she would find a word that was foreign to her, I would look it up and she would keep reading. So before I even began to read this, I had good thoughts and memories for this book. Now that I've actually read it for myself, I can attest to just how good and wonderful it it!

The book starts off in a nursing home. Jacob Jankowski is remembering that incident that changed his life and The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth forever. After that, we start at the beginning of everything that happens to Jacob. He is in college when someone tells him that his parents are dead. One of the townspeople had driven them off of the road and they fell to their deaths. Jacob is in Veterinarian school, just a few days from passing his exams and getting his degree.

I don't want to give it all away, so push-comes-to-shove, Jacob snaps, he runs away and he jumps a train that happens to belong to the Benzini Brother's Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

Almost right away (by this, I mean after the train stops) he meets the beautiful Marlena, the Liberty Horse woman, her husband August, and his new carmate, Walter-- Kinko the clown.

Jacob is brought on to the team as the Veterinarian. He is witness to August's extreme mood swings, to the magnificent shows, to the not-so-great shows, to the way everyone is, to the separation of the workers from the performers.

That was one thing that I found terribly interesting-- how the performers we raised above everyone else that worked on the show. They were the ones that got paid when there was enough money to do so and the ones that got the nice train cars. The performers were like the gods of the circus along with the bosses and Uncle Al (he runs the entire circus).

I liked the relationship between Jacob and Marlena. Not that I find this position to be desirable, it was just interesting how they ended up coping with it. There comes a point in the book where you know Marlena and Jacob are in love. You catch hints and nudges and you think, "Maybe..." but then there's that time where you think, "Oh absolutely!" They don't ignore each other, but they just kind of exchange glances and a few words in passing before something finally happens. Relationships like that are interesting.

Jacob's relationship between Walter and himself is interesting as well. Walter starts off hating Jacob and demands that he be called 'Kinko,' his show name. Only friends call him Walter. Then after that wild night with the "Cooch Girl," he's sympathetic to Jacob and even lets him call him Walter and read from the books in his crate of books. Jacob tests their bond several times, but Walter never falters, though he does get irritated several times.

In summation, 'Water for Elephants' was very-well written, it grabs your attention and never lets go. The characters were well-developed and they interacted with everyone else superbly.

I give 'Water for Elephants':
Thanks for reading!



  1. I loved this book too! One of my writing professors had us read it for an assignment -- best assignment EVER! So glad you liked it. Are you going to see the movie that's coming out soon?

  2. I really want to see it! Hopefully it's just as good as the book!


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