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Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob's life with this circus. Sara Gruen spares no detail in chronicling the squalid, filthy, brutish circumstances in which he finds himself. The animals are mangy, underfed or fed rotten food, and abused. Jacob, once it becomes known that he has veterinary skills, is put in charge of the "menagerie" and all its ills. Uncle Al, the circus impresario, is a self-serving, venal creep who slaps people around because he can. August, the animal trainer, is a certified paranoid schizophrenic whose occasional flights into madness and brutality often have Jacob as their object. Jacob is the only person in the book who has a handle on a moral compass and as his reward he spends most of the novel beaten, broken, concussed, bleeding, swollen and hungover. He is the self-appointed Protector of the Downtrodden, and... he falls in love with Marlena, crazy August's wife. Not his best idea.
The most interesting aspect of the book is all the circus lore that Gruen has so carefully researched. She has all the right vocabulary: grifters, roustabouts, workers, cooch tent, rubes, First of May, what the band plays when there's trouble, Jamaican ginger paralysis, life on a circus train, set-up and take-down, being run out of town by the "revenooers" or the cops, and losing all your hooch. There is one glorious passage about Marlena and Rosie, the bull elephant, that truly evokes the magic a circus can create. It is easy to see Marlena's and Rosie's pink sequins under the Big Top and to imagine their perfect choreography as they perform unbelievable stunts. The crowd loves it--and so will the reader. The ending is absolutely ludicrous and really quite lovely. --Valerie Ryan
Very well written, interesting characters, and wonderful story line.
When you are finished, you will wish the story never ended; but it will have left you with the feeling of knowing you have just read a truely great book.
This is a beautifully written book full of well developed characters and a wonderful story.
Really interesting book. Very true to life for the gentleman in the nursing home. Surprise ending. A good read.Published 23 hours ago by Ina Sanford
Exciting, dramatic story about a college student who runs off with a circus in the 1930s. The happenings are so vividly portrayed that the gore, romance and even laughter will have... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Kim Allen
Read this book after visiting the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. It brought the whole story together with such reality.Published 1 day ago by margery
A true contrast of life facts / perceptions / memories, that unfolds beautifully with proper verification of history; just the right amount of "today" and... Read morePublished 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
Excellent story, true to the life of the circus in that time period. VERY well written, always held my interest.Published 4 days ago by Amazon Customer