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August 15, 2011

Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Author: Sara Gruen
Release Date: April 9th, 2006
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Age: Adult
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
After watching the movie (which I liked), my sister gave me the book. I was really excited about reading it, I know it's a bestseller and that I was probably going to like it. I admit, the real reason that made me curious about this story was that Jacob, the protagonist, is a veterinarian, like me.

Jacob is a young man who is about to end his studies, when life gives him an awful surprise. His parents are dead, and he is left with nothing. Running from his old life, he jumps into the train of a circus called The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. He is saved from being hurled out of the train only because he's a veterinarian. The circus have a lot of animals, and they need to be taken care of.

Jacob is young, innocent and a veterinarian with a big love for animals. Taking care of the animals makes him happy, and that is how he met Marlena. Beautiful, fragile, but married.

I really liked this book. I loved how the author described life at the circus. It's obvious she investigated about circus, the people who worked at them, how they function, and their animals.

But what I liked more was the writing. The story is told by old Jacob. He's 90 years old, or 93, and his memories about the circus, his wife and his life don't die. He starts narrating the story, but suddenly you realize you are reading young Jacob while being at the circus.

Overall, Water for Elephants was a book that grabbed me from the beginning. Although I wanted more emotion between Marlena and Jacob, it's a romantic story, full of action, love for animals and a magnificent circus.

More about this book at www.saragruen.comGoodreadsAmazon, The Book Depository.


  1. I've heard mixed reviews about this book. Good to hear your take.

  2. I'm not sure if I'm going to read this book, but I do want to watch the movie. It sounds really good and I love the circus. ;)Great review.

  3. I havent seen the movie, but this is one of my all time fab books! Love the circus setting too. Glad u liked it :)

  4. Water for Elephants is one of my top five face books, and so I really lve hearing that others enjoyed it too... I need to see the movie now.

  5. I loved this one too. It was sad, but so good and ultimately triumphant. I read it before the movie, and I'm glad because I think the book was better than the movie.

  6. I saw movie and I didn´t like it too much. But I would like to read the book also. I´m curious when your review and I hope I will like it more than movie...