Customer Review

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Water for Elephants; Chocolate for Readers, June 1, 2007
This review is from: Water for Elephants: A Novel (Paperback)
This wonderful book shot through the family like water through an elephant's trunk, as my father, my wife and I all read it in the space of two weeks. Gruen writes the most enjoyable kind of historical fiction, focused on a fascinating time and setting that the reader probably knew next to nothing about before starting the book. In this case, the scene is the American traveling circus of the early 1930's, just after the start of the Depression. The protagonist operates in two time periods, as a nonagenarian in a current day "assisted living facility" and flashing back to his days as a young veterinary student who due to circumstances beyond his control ends up serving as the vet for a traveling circus. Gruen intended to imagine various vignettes for the book, but in her research and interviews with circus veterans discovered stories from real life that were even better--a real-life case of truth being stranger than fiction. The assisted living facility is inevitably less interesting than the world of freaks and geeks in a circus, but Gruen handles the voice of the aged just as deftly as that of the young vet. The book is enhanced by actual pictures from various circus archives. Not an especially profound book, "Water For Elephants" still gets a five-star rating for all readers for readability and Gruen's ability to evoke an interesting place and time so well, along with a surprising and touching, albeit a little far-fetched, ending.
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