Thursday, 14 April 2011

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

A story of impossible love and a way of life lost forever.

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 America 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…

This is another book I bought after seeing the movie trailer in the cinema. If there is a good movie coming out I always read the book first because chances are, the book is better and I don’t want to miss out on a good book. Because it has been made into a movie I did have high expectations for this one and sadly I was a small bit disappointed.

Water for Elephants is not the most challenging in terms of literature but is an entertaining and easy read.  The exciting prologue and the historical aspect quickly drew me in.
Ninety ‘or Ninety-three’ year old Jacob lives in a nursing home where he spends his days sitting in a hall way staring out the window. With the arrival of a circus he starts to reminisce about his youth. Orphaned and penniless he literally runs away with the circus where he meets and falls in love with Marlena, the star of the show. However, in a cruel twist, she turns out to be married to Jacob’s boss, August, a brutish and dangerous man.

Present day Jacob is a sad, melancholic character. He is fading fast and has been virtually forgotten by his family. The periodic returns to the present interrupted the flow and suspense of the story and were unnecessary. The 1930s story alone would have been excellent.

Gruen remarkably captures the essence of circus life in the 1930s. Running away with the circus is not the clichéd fairytale you would expect. It is a harsh life full of cruelty and deceit. There is a strict hierarchy and those who step out of line get ‘red lighted’ (thrown from the moving train at night).

Overall it is an enjoyable book. The love story is intriguing and August’s character adds a sense of danger and excitement. I also grew very fond of Rosie the elephant who was often the target of August’s rage. I would recommend this book if you’re looking for something light. 3 ½ out of 5.

Watch the trailer on YouTube for the film adaptation, click here It doesn’t contain any spoilers!

Dare I say…I think the movie is going to be better than the book??

Describe it in two words?  Entertaining and Imaginative


  1. I must start by saying this book is very well written. The author does a wonderful job of jumping from past to future. You will love most of the characters and it gives you a good insight to how the world has changes.

  2. I couldn't put it down. I love, love, love this beautiful novel. You will never look at a circus or an elephant the same. Sara Gruen's illustration of memory is a very special thing. This novel gives life to spectacular people you come to love and hate, but moreso miss when you've turned the last page.