25 May 2011

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by SARA GRUEN.

Orphaned, penniless, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight train in the dark, and in that instant, transforms his future.

By morning, he's landed a job with the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he's in love.

In an American made colourless by prohibition and the Depression, the circus is a refuge of sequins and sensuality. But behind the glamour lies a darker world, where both animals and men are dispensable. Where falling in love is the most dangerous act of all.
.... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Prologue): Only three people were left under the red and white awning of the grease joint: Grady, me, and the fry cook.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 408): With a secret like that, at some point the secret itself becomes irrelevant. The fact that you kept it does not.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: I will be returning this book and have no intention of buying a copy for our home library.

A reading group read, I'm not sure I would have picked this one up otherwise as I hate the thought of animals being made to perform in circuses. That said I did enjoy the book and am glad that I read it.

The story is told by Jacob as both a young man in his early 20s and an elderly gent aged either 90 or 93 - he can't quite remember which.

Young Jacob's story is full of hardship and yet is vibrant, full of adventure and first love and made enjoyable reading whilst the story of  elderly Jacob made quite depressing reading and was only saved from being totally maudlin by his memories of happier times and the kindness of nurse Rosemary and circus owner Charlie.

Colourful and exotic, there were a wide variety of characters, many of them complex, all of whom I responded to in one way or another and many of whom I came to care for greatly. Written with more male characters than female, the afore mentioned Rosemary and circus performer Marlena being the only two of note, I think author, Sara Gruen, did a tremendous job getting into the mind-set of all these men.

As for the animal aspect of the novel. Thankfully more about human relationships, I adored the friendship between Jacob, Camel and Kinko, than the animals, I nevertheless found the animal scenes both touching and, at times, distressing. And being totally honest would have preferred for them not to be there at all but I guess their inclusion was necessary if the plot was to remain realistic as animals were a main attraction in circus during this period and sadly would not have always been treated kindly.

What did I like best about the book. Certainly not the love story between Jacob and Marlena - I simply could not bring myself to like her. I think it was the fact that no matter how bad things got for young/old Jacob there was always hope and someone there to offer friendship and support. That and knowing that in the end the villain, the 'baddie', of the story got his just deserts.

The 44th book read for the 100+ Reading Challenge.

19 comments:

animewookie said...

It's fully, I've read so many mixed reviews about this book. Some people are completely over the top for it and others are just..eh. Thank you for your incite. I very much enjoyed it :D

Mary said...

What I liked most about the book was the end - I loved Jacob. Totally agree with you about animals and the circus (zoos as well).

Misha said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the book. This book has been lying on my shelf since so long; I will finally read it this summer.

dr.antony said...

You save many of us from lots of troubles!I would read only something you would have loved to keep.

Vivienne said...

Your right, the animal scenes were quite distressing, but it was a superb book. I am so pleased you liked it too.

kavita said...

Sounds interesting.Thanks for the review.

Kelly said...

An interesting review of a book I've not yet read, but thought I might want to. I have very mixed feelings about animals held in captivity. I'm not the biggest fan of circuses, but love zoos...as long as the animals are treated well. (which might all seem strange coming from one who hunts)

This is one I still may read at some point, but probably not anytime soon.

Suko said...

I would like to read this, and/or see the movie, but both will have to wait a bit. Very nice review, from which I learned a thing or two about the story.

Lilly said...

I've only watched the film. I didn't think I would like the film, but I really enjoyed it, except for the parts with the animals. Actually I didn't know it was based on a book, and I now want to read the book, because they are usually much better!
It's going on my list of books to read!

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I love the UK cover of this book! Oh and I'm so glad the baddie at the end gets his just desserts. Perhaps the love story in the movie is better. Sometimes they change things. Great review.

StarTraci said...

I am so glad that you reviewed this book. I just saw the movie and really did not like it. I especially disliked the relationship with Marlena. I was wonderding if I should get the book, now I know to not waste my time further. Save your time, as well, don't bother with the film.

:-)
Traci

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

Really a great review. It's not really a book I would pick up. But I've heard people enjoying this one and there is the movie coming out too. Thank you for the great review!

GMR said...

Wow. Had I not noticed the title, I would NOT have recognized this book. The cover is SO much different from any of the ones I've seen over here. Funny you mention about the circus. I loved it when I was little but as I got older I saw the ways they "controlled" the animals and was no longer a true fan. Sounds like the way it's told is almost a male version of a particular Nicholas Sparks book that is escaping my mind right now. May check it out in the future, but not in any true hurry. Thanks for the share!

Nina said...

Not sure if I'm going to read the book first and then watch the movie. I probably end up watching the movie first. ;) I'm glad you liked it, but sorry to hear you didn't love the relationship. ;0

Chatty Crone said...

I have heard mixed reviews - thanks for this one!

naida said...

I really want to read this, then watch the movie.
Nice review.

Jenners said...

I enjoyed this ... mostly for feeling like I was getting a real understanding of what it was like to live a circus train life. Not sure I loved the ending ... that just didn't sit right with me but overall it was a worthwhile read. I've never seen that cover ... not quite what I would have imagined!!

Alyce said...

I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the experience of listening to it, and I think I liked it more as an audiobook than I would have reading it. My favorite character was Kinko, and his part of the story haunted me for days after I finished.

Su said...

I haven't decided about adding this one to my TBR list-- I also keep hearing mixed reviews. I imagine I'll end up starting it, even if I don't finish.