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Water for Elephants Paperback – January 1, 2011
"The Lost Girls of Devon" by Barbara O'Neal
From the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids comes a story of four generations of women grappling with family betrayals and long-buried secrets. | Learn more
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- Item Weight : 8.8 ounces
- Paperback : 464 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1616200715
- ISBN-13 : 978-1616200718
- Product Dimensions : 6.73 x 1.22 x 6.06 inches
- Publisher : Algonquin Books; Media tie-in Edition (January 1, 2011)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,893,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The book begins with ninety year old Jacob remembering a very intense and disturbing event from his time with the circus that will leave you wanting to find out how it got to that point. The chapters then alternate between old Jacob and his very depressed state at the Assisted Living Facility and him remembering his journey with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. The circumstances on how he came to join the circus as the show Veterinarian were very sad. He went from being a young man about to graduate from Cornell, his whole future ahead of him and the possibility of FINALLY losing his virginity, to having no one and nowhere to go.
Once on the show, he meets August, the show's equestrian director and superintendent of animals. August is one very questionable character. He can be the most charming man around and moments later he can turn into the most terrifying creature you've ever encountered. He also meets Marlena, August's wife, and falls in love with her on the spot. At a later point, the show aquires an elephant named Rosie who is thought to be stupid because she won't learn to do anything the trainers try to make her do. Rosie plays a huge part in this story, and she gave me the biggest surprise in this book. This story also takes you on an eye opening journey through the sad conditions circus employees and animals were under in 1931.
Water for Elephants was a completely different read for me. It was Adult, and it was realistic, and I loved it. I was a little skeptical about the circus theme. Can't say I've ever been curious enough about its workings to read a book revolving around one, but I am so glad I did because it was sooo much more than that! It made me laugh, cry and gasp in astonishment sometimes. It was a huge plus knowing this will be a movie (coming out in April) starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon as the main characters. I just pictured both of them the whole time! :D
Jacob is extremely naive and young in his life, from a nice home with loving parents and a successful career in plain sight; what he learns on the train is a real jolt into the life of a nomad and as a reader you get to experience his growth into a man. One women in my book club felt it was a tad graphic and even though I agree to a point I felt it was necessary for us to see Jacob experience a world of unspoken truths. The life on a circus train exposes him to situations that he definitely wouldn't have seen as a neighborhood vet, including, sex, alcoholism, prostitution, starvation, survival... This is written from Jacob's perspective, a boy who's been snatched from a life of predictable comforts and is thrown into a nomadic life aboard a, virtually life-threatening, train to nowhere; of course it's going to be a bit graphic and detail emphasized!
This book really transports you into an era long past and I could feel and smell the circus. It also makes you want to run to the nearest retirement home and volunteer. The characters were very well developed and believable as were the animals. I didn't turn the last page with any disappointment; the story was complete and satisfying, no open endings, no need for a sequel. Excellent, one I will read again. The movie didn't hold a candle to the book.
Gruen retells this story while weaving in and out of Jacob's current old age, back to the prime of his youth. This story is about a man who had his life all planned out, about to finish a prestigious veterinary school. Then to be faced with tragedy and crisis. No money, no future, and nothing but possibility. So he hops a train that turns out to be a circus on wheels.
Anyhow, this book is a great page turner. There's action, romance, and a connection with the hero and his mates. Gruen clearly took the effort to realistically recreate her setting and characters, and effortlessly makes you root for the hero and hate the villains just as well. I found myself near tears at the losses, huffing at the frustrations Jacob would go through, laughing with joy, and breathing sighs of relief as well.
I hope you'll love it too!