Monday, March 12, 2012

Water for Elephants [book review]

Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen
May 2006
Reading Level: Adult

An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.
I had heard from a number of good friends how amazing this book was, and I know it's extremely popular with the movie, so I borrowed it from a friend and read it.

I didn't find the book to be quite as magnificent as I was hoping. This is probably due to the extreme hype around it, though. There were a number of things that I really enjoyed about it. I loved the switching points of view between old Jacob and young Jacob. That definitely added something magical to the story. I also loved the idea of the circus; it's not something you come across too often, and so it sparked my interest and kept me entertained throughout the novel.

Others might find it to be magical, but I was not completely awestruck. However, the unique plot and likeable characters kept me involved and interested from beginning to end. This was not really what I was expecting, but it was still good enough not to be too big of a disappointment.

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