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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
An excellent read. I couldn't put it down. I learned so much about this time period and the trains and the carnies. Thank you, Sara for bringing it alive for us.Published 11 hours ago by Richard Smiraldi
Excellent book. I am so happy I read this. While it reads more like non-fiction, it was so excellent and the ending was so superb that I am grateful I had the opportunity to read... Read morePublished 17 hours ago by JR
Excellent book and much better than the movie. The exceptional level of rich detail that the reader gets from the book make it exponentially more enjoyable than the film.Published 1 day ago by Joan T. Steel
I am looking forward to reading more from Sara Gruen.
I like the way she prepares to write by getting to know everything possible about the subject.
This was a book I couldn't put down.
I like the way the Author put a story in a story.