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Water for Elephants: A Novel [Paperback]

Sara Gruen
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (380 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

7 Feb 2008

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth a second-rate travelling circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town.

Jacob, a veterinary student who almost earned his degree, is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.

Water for Elephants was a major movie starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Two Roads; 1st Edition Pbk edition (7 Feb 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340962720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340962725
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 12.9 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (380 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sara 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.

Product Description

Review

'Gruen brilliantly conjures up the whole brouhaha of herding punters into the temporary magic of the big top, and the harsh economic reality of sustaining the show. Both exotic and erotic, Water for Elephants is filled with colour and passion but is also charged with an elegiac sense of loss for an entire way of life.' (Financial Times)

'I loved Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Great story, loads of fun; hard to put down. So what if the heroine weighs 2500 pounds?' (Stephen King)

You are so immersed in circus life that you are completely blinded by the thrilling, fatal dazzle of sequins and sawdust. (Daily Telegraph)

There is a tender story of first love, of murder, mayhem and animal and human brutality, of hucksters, whores and the general hoopla created when the circus rolls into town... This book is every bit the fabulous escapist entertainment that the big top once was. (Sunday Express)

Lovely and mesmerising. (Kirkus)

This masterpiece of storytelling is a book about what animals can teach people about love. (Susan Cheever)

'It's a romantic story that's set in an evocatively rendered era.' (Heat)

'The writing conjures up the smells and sounds of the circus, the excitement and the magic, as well as the rather tawdry seediness and the both casual and overt brutality.... The delightful, fairy-tale ending left me smiling for days at the imagery conjured up by it.' (new books)

'Definitely worth catching up with if you've missed it so far.' (Choice)

'Water for Elephants is fun, sweet and thrilling and will pull you into the mysterious life of the circus so far that you won't want to leave.' (Guardian)

'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)

'the ending gives you a lift and shows that good triumphs over evil.' (Epoch Times)

'The most magical, haunting novel I've read in the past few years.' (Daisy Waugh, Tatler)

'one of my favourite reads last year. It was so cinematic I just knew there would have to be a Hollywood movie. . . . Star of both the book and the movie is Rosie the elephant who is more intelligent and photogenic than any other member of the cast. And that's saying something because the two main human stars are the impossibly beautiful Reese Witherspoon and Twilight heart-throb Robert Pattinson.' (The Sun)

Book Description

The gritty, compelling New York Times bestselling novel of star-crossed lovers and circus life, set in Depression-era USA.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
131 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 19 Jan 2007
By DubaiReader TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Unlike the previous reviewer, I was truly 'swept away' by this book. It was so full of fascinating insights, wonderful (though not always lovable) characters and a story line that I couldn't put down. I loved the fact that all the anecdotes were taken from old circus history and I'd never heard of the great circus trains of mid 1900's America. As a bonus Ms Gruen has included some superb photos from circus archives that really complement the narrative.

Jacob Jancowski is studying for his final exams in veterinary medicine when the death of his parents leaves him in dire straits, both mentally and financially. In his confusion and despair he finds himself wandering, and before he comes to his senses he's jumped a train and entered a new life. It's a life full of highs and lows, a fast learning curve for a fresh faced lad from an Ivy League University.

Jacob, however, finds his niche and so unravels a wonderful story of an unknown time in a traveling circus.

Alongside this runs the current day Jacob, an old man in a nursing home, waiting out the end of his days, when the circus comes to town....

I loved the way the two stories were woven together at the end of the book, but I'm not going to give anything away. You'll have to read it!

My book of the year this year was Joanne Harris's "Gentlemen and Players", but at the last minute I think this book has pipped her to the post!
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94 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So real you can smell the sawdust! 26 Nov 2008
Format:Paperback
Quite simply Water for Elephants is an exceptional read and one that any reader should not miss out on. Briefly the novel is about a circus struggling to survive the Depression-era years in America, or more specifically circus life from the perspective of an ad hoc `vetinarian' - Jacob Jankowski, who jumped on the Benzini Brothers circus train by chance, one evening.

The action in Water for Elephants is fast-paced; more than sufficient to keep the reader glued to the pages. `Pit stops' to the action comes in the form of the story reverting back to the nursing home of the present-day, where Jacob is finding his aged infirmity almost intolerable. These respites back to present-day are brief though, and inevitably the narrative shoots back quickly to Jacob's circus days where the action regains its breakneck speed.

Gruen has really done her `homework' while researching for this novel. She's created a circus world that's wholly believable; one that you feel right in the midst of (especially when she intersperses the chapters with contemporary circus photos). Gruen tells us in the `author's note' at the back of the novel that she had researched extensively for Water for Elephants and it shows! So much so that you can almost smell the menagerie, and the sawdust of the circus ring.

What really makes Water for Elephants special for me though (aside from the great storyline) is the characters. Gruen has done a remarkable job of creating some truly colourful and memorable people in the pages of her novel. Uncle Al (the circus boss) and August (the animal trainer) are characters you're going to love to hate. Marlena, Kinko the Clown aka Walter, and Camel are character's you're just going to love. You're going to love the chief protagonist Jacob Jankowski too.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining circus tale 29 Jan 2009
By G. Gray
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The most poignant and amusing part of this book about an old man in a nursing home reminiscing about his youth working as a vet in a travelling circus, are the sections describing his feelings about the way he is treated by the staff in the home. The recollections of circus life include some good historical detail based on substantial research by the author. However, some parts of the story seem unlikely at best and often unbelievable. The ending is rather too good to be true! I chose this title for our book club and most found it an entertaining, easy read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 5 April 2011
Format:Paperback
Water for Elephants: A Novel

I brought this as I thought it may be nice to read before the film comes out...I honestly was mainly interested in the film for Rob Pattinson but I must say I am glad I have read it as it is a excellent book and I didn't put it down so I finished it in a day and half and was gutted when it ended.... It is fantastically well written and I am now excited to see the big screen adaption as I think it will be excellent and no longer just for my R Patz fill.

Really is worth the read.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Passes a few hours 17 April 2007
By Sarah Durston TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Water for Elephants is primarily a romance set in a travelling circus in the 1930s, but we do also see the main character Jacob Janowski as he is in old age in an old folks Home.

The novel was obvoiusly well researached, many of the events in the novel are based on real happenings, and for this reason it was very enjoyable. I learned about 'red-lighting' and the etiquette of the time surrounding performers fratenising with circus hands!

I did have some difficulty with the book being written as a first person narration. I think that Gruen gave herself unnecessary problems writing in this way, with Jacob witnessing conversations that it was unlikely he would have been involved in and making observations that seemed a little unlikely with what we knew about his character and experience. However this is a minor critisism.

I loved Rosie the elephant and Queenie the terrier, but animal lovers should be warned there is some pretty nasty animal cruelty in the book. It's well written but a little difficult to stomach.

All in all, a great book with a satisfying conclusion to both the young and the old Jacob storylines. I have deducted one star only because although I enjoyed the book, I wasn't really swept away.

Enjoy!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
An unusual story - I love the character descriptions.
Published 23 hours ago by Susan Meah
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read with a satisfying conclusion.
A great read with a satisfying conclusion.
Published 2 days ago by John
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Did not live up to expectations
Published 5 days ago by HK
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A beautifully written story of love!
Published 8 days ago by samwell
5.0 out of 5 stars I recommended this to our book club as I had previously ...
I recommended this to our book club as I had previously seen the film. We were looking for something less gritty than our previous choices. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Penny the story reader
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it.
I loved it. Thought it was a great read. Gripping and absorbing. I loved the characters - especially Rosie. Time slips were handled well. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Jill in East Kent
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant read
Published 24 days ago by liz
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I have not read this book...it was a gift for someone else.
Published 24 days ago by Mrs. T. M. KITCHEN
4.0 out of 5 stars Booktrail to the circus - come and smell the sawdust, the paint and...
Jacob Jankowski’s parents are killed in a car crash just days before he is due to sit final exams at Cornell University. Read more
Published 25 days ago by thebooktrailer
5.0 out of 5 stars Good story, I learnt a lot about Elephants and ...
Good story, I learnt a lot about Elephants and other animals in an American circus years ago , good thriller , as well
Kept in suspense until final chapter.
Published 29 days ago by Susan Fletcher
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