17 November, 2016


Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Series: -
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Source: Paperback
Pages: 335

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Orphaned, penniless, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight train in the dark, and in that instant, transforms his future.By morning, he's landed a job with the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he's in love.In an America made colourless by prohibition and the Depression, the circus is a refuge of sequins and sensuality. But behind the glamour lies a darker world, where both animals and men are dispensable. Where falling in love is the most dangerous act of all... 

I have to admit I have already seen the movie for this book and I really did enjoy the movie, so when I found the book I bought it and I am really happy I am an owner of such a magnificent story. Plus I am going through like a Circus/Carnival phase right now so starting from this book is amazing!

THE WORLD: The world in this book takes places in two time periods. The entire book is written through the spectrum of memories, so when we have the present narrative we are in the present, well near future, because out narrator is 93 year's old and when we go back to his memories when we is young we go back to the 1930's. So the world is pretty much what we know and have now, and what we know the 30's in America was. Grey, scary, unsteady but the only colorful thing that brings people a little happiness is - the circus. The book is filled with beautiful and vivid descriptions of how the circus tents looked like, how the costumes looked like, what type of animals there were, how they trained them. It was really easy to imagine how everything looked like. 

CHARACTERS: Before we dive into the characters let me quickly tell you about the plot. It basically tells a story about Jacob Jankowski, his life before and after he joined the circus as a water carrier for the elephants and as a veterinarian. So we get to see two Jacob's in this book, an old man Jacob, and a young man Jacob. When the book begins he is 93 and is placed in a nursing home, but when he travels back to his memories, he is a 23 year-old vet student, who loses both his parents and runs away to basically start his life over. He then joins the Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show on Earth circus. I really did enjoy Jacob's character. He was so funny as an old man, I kept imagining having a grandpa with his sense of humor. It would be amazing. But also you could feel how much in pain he was for having to life the way he lived now knowing and remembering his young days and all the adventures. I also enjoyed reading about young Jacob, and how he from an naive university student became a strong and mature man, who fought for what he loved!

Then we have  the leading lady of the book Marlena. She was the main attraction of the circus because she did a performance with horses and then with an elephant. Marlena was a good character, I enjoyed her character development. She went from a pretty little naive girl to a strong woman who finally took her life into her own hands. I liked that she was sensitive and gentle with the animals, I could actually feel the connection and she shared with them. She has a story about herself, a life she left behind to join the circus but I think that just made her more stronger and more determined to live the way eventually wanted to live.

Through out the book we meed a number of wonderful and colorful character like Camel -  who is a circus drunk but he has a kind heart and takes Jacob under his wing. I like Rosemary, a nurse back in the nursing home where old Jacob lives. I also enjoyed Walter and his terrier. I especially loved loved loved the star performer, the wonderful elephants - Rosie. The passages with her was a delight to read. Elephants do really fascinate me and I simply fell in love with them and went on to Google as much as I could about them and then watched multiple documentaries about them and I have to say people who kill these wonderful animals for sport should be put in jail or slapped right out of their stupid minds!

Of course there were antagonists and man, this book had couple of good ones. With Uncle Al, the owner of the circus. Worst human ever, literally wanted to just smack him. And of course August, the head trainer and presenter in the circus, he basically runs the en tire show. He is also married to Marlena. He was the perfect psychopath because he was charming and very brutal at the same time. You could have felt how the animals and Marlena feared him. In the book he did beat a lot of people and animals and it was very painful to read, painful and angry. I always try to find something redeemable in main villains, that maybe something made them this way. Nope August was just awful. Worst human ever together with Uncle Al.

LOVE: Of course we have love in this book. A beautiful love story between Jacob and Marlena and I have to say it made me smile and giggle and be so happy so see these two characters fall in love. I think they needed each other because Jacob fell for Marlena's strong believes and temperament and that she was fearful with everything in the circus. Something maybe he missed in himself. And Marlena fell for Jacob's kindness, because he was just such a nice guy and he carried for other and the animals and I think she simply needed that kindness in her life. 

PLUS: The story itself was interested, and the life of circus was a delight to read and of course anything to do with animals. I am not kidding you, you learn a lot from this book.

MINUS: I am not really for circus with animals. I think it's kind of cruel to cage a wild animal and train them to do tricks, so I wasn't really happy that these animals were being beaten and trained in  brutal way, but again you did see that only August hurt them and the rest of the crew loved the animals.

Also I didn't really like the situation with Jacob's kids but let's not get into spoilers.

OVERALL: I highly recommend to read this book for everyone: even if you're a guy or a girl, a mom, my mom! or just someone who misses a good book with a great story!


What did you think of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS?