Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Any book that followed "A Discovery of Witches" had big shoes to fill - I had a few suggestions and ended up picking up "Water For Elephants" without paying much attention to the subject matter, reviews or length.

The Audible Publishers' Summary:
An atmospheric tale of life and love in a Depression-era traveling circus. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world. Jacob introduces us to Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; to August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and to Rosie, a seemingly untrainable elephant. Beautifully written, with a luminous sense of time and place, Water for Elephants tells of love in a world in which love's a luxury few can afford.

Following the untimely deaths of his parents, Jacob's life is thrown into turmoil. Sent home from Vet school to identify their bodies he's confronted with some adult truths. His father (also a vet) was deeply in debt (for a number of reasons - including Jacob's tuition). Immediately following the funerals, the family home is foreclosed upon - Jacob returns to school (where else he he supposed to go) to sit for his final exams. He doesn't take them - instead wandering the rail lines and jumping a train. Which just so happens to be "The Benzini Brother's Most Spectacular Show on Earth" - it turns out it's neither the Benzini's or - all that spectacular.

There are two narrators who speak as Jacob - David LeDoux as Jacob at twenty-three and John Randolph Jones as Jacob at Ninety - or Ninety-Three (this is sort of a running humor as the old duffer doesn't know if he's 90 - or 93). I initially found the 93 year old Jacob's voice to be annoying and grating. What started initially as charming became frustratingly slow and then as the 11th hour approached it was fitting and appropriate.

My overall impression of Water for Elephants is positive. Think "Fried Green Tomatoes" meets traveling circus - rich characters from another time and another world - circus culture a world of its own. There's an underlying love story - Boy loves unattainable Girl. Girl married to Boy's Boss. Boy loves chimp (ok, but not like that), Elephant loves Girl (but not like that either), etc....You'll feel good about the ending and OK with the wrapping of the threads.

Water for Elephants is now a "Major Motion Picture" - opening on April 22, 2011. I didn't see the trailer before listening to the book - but I think Reese Witherspoon is the PERFECT Marlena!

Here's the trailer for Water For Elephants:


Water for Elephants was written by Sara Gruen; narrated by David LeDoux (23 year old Jacob) and John Randolph Jones (90-- or 93 -- year old Jacob); published by HighBridge Audio. Water for Elephants (unabridged) has a running time of 11 hours 27 minutes and an Audible release date of May 24th, 2006.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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