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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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.
Water for Elephants is a love story set in a post depression traveling circus and told from the memory of 93 year-old man.
Amazing job by Ms. Gruen. A novel that presents a sensitive and historically believable presentation of early circus life. Read morePublished 1 day ago by James E Gaynor
Simply one of the best modern novels written, and deservedly #1 on the best seller list. Great story, well written.Published 3 days ago by Elen H.
The story was interesting. The book is much better than the movie.Published 3 days ago by Pink Monkey
I'd give this one more stars if they were available. The chapters with the 'old' man come as a shock in between sections of him as a young man, which are so engrossing that you... Read morePublished 4 days ago by roses34266