Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

Paperback: 418 pages
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Two Roads (First Published in GB) 2011
Source: From a Bookcrosser as the result of a Bookmooch
First Sentence: Prologue 'Only three people were left under the red and white awning of the grease joint: Grady, me and the fry cook.'
Favourite Quote:  
 “Life is the most spectacular show on earth ”  
Review Quote: 
'Trust us, Water for Elephants is going to be one of the surprise hits of 2011. Sara Gruen's very readable novel is a story of impossible love set in the circus world during the 1930s and is set to be made into a blockbuster film starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. You heard it here first.'
'Good Housekeeping' 
My Opinion:
Exceptional read
The last novel I read and reviewed was also about animals but this could not be more different and after struggling to get into the last one, I loved this from the minute I picked it up and found it to be an exceptional read. The authors love of animals and the tremendous research she did for this novel make it not only a fascinating portrayal of life, ugly and vibrant in the American circus of the 1930's but a beautiful and tender love story. I had never even heard of circus trains until I read this either and learning a little something when I read also appeals to me.

The title had been on my wishlist for awhile so I was delighted to obtain a copy recently and wanted to get on with reading so that I can see the film, which has been recommended to me. 
Since seeing elephants up close in Thailand, I also have more understanding of just how intelligent they are. Wonderful creatures which will treat humans well if they are given the respect they deserve. Sara Gruen portrays the nature of the elephant perfectly, for me Rosie was the real protagonist of the novel. The novel is told as two separate but connected stories, as well as being immersed in the circus world, we are also given an inside view of a home for the elderly where the hero of the story Jacob is now living. Again the author has done her research as the scenes in the nursing home were poignant and all too familiar to me in many ways. 

When the novel starts Jacob Jankowski is in his nineties and living in a nursing home and the imminent arrival of the circus in town revives some very stirring memories for the old man and it is these that are told in the other storyline.
It is the American Depression and when Jacob's parents die while he is studying veterinary science at university, he discovers that they were in dire financial difficulties and he cannot even afford to complete his studies. Confused and bewildered with no plans for his future he finds himself hitching a ride on a circus train and in that moment his whole life changes. By the following morning he finds himself working for the travelling circus and by that evening he has met and fallen for the woman who will for evermore be the love of his life. Marlena, the star performer, however the love should remain unrequited as she is married to August the strangely mad animal trainer.  Of course it is not long either before he also meets my particular favourite, Rosie the elephant. Whilst struggling to survive in the world of this second rate travelling circus this young couples love overcomes obstacles that you can not begin to imagine. 

The two stories are ultimately woven together but to find out just how you will have to read for yourself. I highly recommend you read this if you have not already done so. I think most avid readers will find something they like about this one.

Water For Elephants - Movie Trailer - I do not personally feel there are any spoilers in this video.

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, James Frain

Based on the acclaimed bestseller, "Water for Elephants" presents an unexpected romance in a uniquely compelling setting. Veterinary school student Jacob meets and falls in love with Marlena, a star performer in a circus of a bygone era. They discover beauty amidst the world of the Big Top, and come together through their compassion for a special elephant. Against all odds - including the wrath of Marlena's charismatic but dangerous husband, August - Jacob and Marlena find lifelong love.

Water For Elephants trailer courtesy 20th Century Fox.

Author Profile

Sara Gruen is a Canadian-born author with Canadian and U.S. dual citizenship. Her books deal greatly with animals and she is a supporter of numerous charitable organizations that support animals and wildlife.  She now lives in America with her husband, three children, two dogs, two cats, three goats, and a horse. She already has her eye on another horse and a donkey.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing.


  1. Good review Linda. I read the book and saw the film, and thoroughly enjoyed both. Highly recommended!

  2. Thisisme@ Thanks, I must say it was a really lovely read and so different to my previous read. I am looking forward to seeing the film as well.

  3. thanks for the great review Linda, heard so much good about this one!

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

  4. Lainy@ I am glad you enjoyed the review and I hope you will get the opportunity to read it yourself sometime.

  5. Will add it to my wish list then Linda :-)

  6. I think i might pick this up after i complete the books i am reading! :)

  7. This novel has been on my to-read list for ages, but I've never got round to it!

  8. Cathy@ I am pleased you are adding this to your wishlist.
    Divenita@ Good idea, let me know what you think.
    Talli@ I think you will enjoy this but you might find it extra moving, due to your condition :)

  9. This is such a fantastic review, Linda. I adored this book, and I thought that the movie was adapted well, too!

    I have not read The Ape House yet, but I want to read it this autumn.

    Thanks so much for linking-up to Literary Friday!


  10. A great review as always Lindy. I am adding this to my every increasing wish list too.

  11. Ricki Jill@ Thanks, I am certainly looking forward to seeing the movie and reading her next book.
    Vibha@ Thanks, delighted you are adding this title to your wishlist.

  12. Thanks for posting this! I haven't read the book or seen the movie, but I'm curious about it. :)

  13. Beth@ I hope it is my post that has made you curious, thanks for calling by and commenting :)

  14. I like the sound of this, will have a look out for it. Thanks Linda. Diane

  15. I read this one about 5 years ago and I just loved it! I think it's time for a re-read.

  16. Zimbabwe@ I hope you manage to get hold of a copy, I am now looking forward to seeing the film sometime.

    Melissa@ I am impressed that you have time to consider a re-read!

  17. I was a little unsure if I wanted to read a book about the circus, but after everyone giving the book such great reviews I decided to give it a try. I loved it! I was engrossed the entire time. Every page was exciting, I never got bored. In fact after I read it, I decided to reread it instantly. The characters are so interesting and I fell in love with all of them. I was so happy with the end of the book! Definitely read this one!
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