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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
Bought it used, and it was in great physical condition, but the cover was written on- the outside.Published 21 hours ago by Claire Skeels
I LOVED this book! What a story!!! The first I had heard of this story was when the movie came out. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
A nice book on the American circus in the 1930's. Very interesting with lively characters, an engaging plot, sadness, joy, danger - all around great read.Published 2 days ago by Kindle Customer
I thouroughly enjoyed this book. I don't know how it escaped my notice until 2014 but I recommend it without reservation. Sometimes painful but completely engaging. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Rosalie Arntzen
One of the best books I have ever read.aAlot of detail about circus life and life in general during time in our history's so well as a love story. About animal as well as humansPublished 4 days ago by Grama Reader
The book is somewhat entertaining. I feel it is lacking some quality as far as the content and plot. Some of the actions in the book are so unbelievable. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Tina Fan