Water For Elephants Hardcover – May 18 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
With its spotlight on elephants, Gruen's romantic page-turner hinges on the human-animal bonds that drove her debut and its sequel (Riding Lessons and Flying Changes)—but without the mass appeal that horses hold. The novel, told in flashback by nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski, recounts the wild and wonderful period he spent with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus he joined during the Great Depression. When 23-year-old Jankowski learns that his parents have been killed in a car crash, leaving him penniless, he drops out of Cornell veterinary school and parlays his expertise with animals into a job with the circus, where he cares for a menagerie of exotic creatures[...] He also falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers—a romance complicated by Marlena's husband, the unbalanced, sadistic circus boss who beats both his wife and the animals Jankowski cares for. Despite her often clichéd prose and the predictability of the story's ending, Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes and freaks who populate her book. (May 26)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Life is good for Jacob Jankowski. He's about to graduate from veterinary school and about to bed the girl of his dreams. Then his parents are killed in a car crash, leaving him in the middle of the Great Depression with no home, no family, and no career. Almost by accident, Jacob joins the circus. There he falls in love with the beautiful performer Marlena, who is married to the circus' psychotic animal trainer. He also meets the other love of his life, Rosie the elephant. This lushly romantic novel travels back in forth in time between Jacob's present day in a nursing home and his adventures in the surprisingly harsh world of 1930s circuses. The ending of both stories is a little too cheerful to be believed, but just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief. The book is partially based on real circus stories and illustrated with historical circus photographs. Marta Segal
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Jacob Jankowski finds the loves of his life after joining the Benzini Brothers crumbling circus during the Great Depression: the charming and beautiful circus star Marlena, and the circus's other feature performer, Rosie, a delightful and crafty elephant.
The sideshow of supporting characters is rich and fascinating. There is Camel, the elderly man who gets more enjoyment from alcohol in Prohibition era America than the circus he can barely work for; Kinko, the Shakespeare loving, grumpy dwarf; ringmaster Uncle Al, who feeds his animals better than he pays his workers (after all, people won't show up for a circus without animals!), and the manipulative August, the animal trainer with a penchant for hooks and whips.
Author Gruen shows us the dark side of circus life after the big top closes down. Although the love story is front and centre, the sinister side of the circus life is revealed through various acts of greed, deception, and cruelty. The novel is impeccably researched for its portrayal of the circus and its performers, and also for the aching sadness and desperation of the Depression years.
Water for Elephants is an entertaining read; it is like a tightrope act that makes you hold your breath in admiration until the performer takes her final step to safety. [Amy MacDougall]
Now, Rosie wasn't too much of a hope because she was lovable but could not follow any command . Rosie's only unique characteristic was a seemingly unquenchable thirst for lemonade. Her inability to perform was no excuse for the intolerable cruelty visited upon her by August, the callous menagerie director who thought nothing of tossing a lit cigarette into Rosie's open mouth. He didn't limit his abuse to helpless animals but also mistreated his lovely wife, Marlena.
Spellbindingly read by David LeDoux and John Rutledge Jones, Water For Elephants is at its heart the story of three - Jacob, who has lost his parents in a tragic accident, and finds a home with the circus, Marlena and, of course, Rosie. It's a poignant look at their lives set against an oppressive, sometimes degrading circus world, and a look back at our country during the grueling Depression years. Most importantly, it's a reminder of the resiliency of human beings and how love can heal.
- Gail Cooke
Both my husband and I loved this book. So many times an author takes such care in writing the story but seeemingly whips up an ending to reach the publishers deadline. Not so in this case, we were both very pleasantly surprised by the ending, both of us closing the book with a grin on our faces. I will be recommending this book very highly to friends and family.
Most recent customer reviews
Great condition, and a great book. It gives a valuable perspective into the life, and held my attention close all the way through. Caution, it may leave you in tears!Published 4 months ago by Lauren
It's an amazing book, but I am hardly unique on thinking that, The author shows a real depth of feeling for her characters and animals as well.Published 7 months ago by Ecurb Snaven Nud
Water for Elephants is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I'd recommend it to anyone, and will actively seek out other books by Sara Gruen.Published 8 months ago by Karen Wattie