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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
Sorry, very slim pickings here. The story is slim, the credibility is slim and the feeling is even slimmer. Read morePublished 10 hours ago by Zoe H.
Excellant story. Should be recommended reading for all who are geriatric caretakers.Published 11 hours ago by Patricia Hood
This is an interesting read that give some insight on what the early circus life was like and also a glimpse at how tough life was in the depression years.Published 12 hours ago by flbuyer
I really enjoyed it. That was the first Kindle book I have read that had illustrations. I found the pace and content were excellant. I have not seen the movie.Published 1 day ago by kathlynazacherl
I gave this book 4 stars because I waited all through the book for the meaning of the title and must have missed it. But it was a riveting story. Read morePublished 1 day ago by TellicoAbigail
I really enjoyed the book. I am not a fast reader but this one kept me interested and wondering what was going to happen next.
I would like to read more books like this one.