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Water for Elephants: A Novel

85 Ratings: 3.3

Jacob Jankowski says: "I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other." At the beginning ofWater for Elephants, he is living out his days in a nursing home, hating every second of it. His life wasn't always like this, however, because Jacob … see full wiki

Author: Sara Gruen
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Date Published: April 9, 2007
29 reviews about Water for Elephants: A Novel
review by . June 05, 2011
We've all had the pleasure of reading and enjoying a book so much that we simply could not put it down, right?  And we've all heard the expression, "It was a real page turner!"  These both hold true for Sara Gruen's book, Water for Elephants.  It is a mesmerizing and simple tale filled with a brilliant cast of characters, good humor and intense desperation at some moments.  It doesn't try so hard to be elegant and poise, but it does it's best to …
review by . September 17, 2008
Let me be the 1,455th to tell you about this modern classic!    Poignant, funny, happy, sad, violent, tender, this circus story hits every emotion in perfect pitch and pacing, told through the eyes of an old man (not sure how old) abandoned (not quite) by his family (large and loving and dutiful) in a nursing home who is spurred to remembrance of his Depression years on the circus by the sight of a circus outside his nursing home room.    The title job is …
review by . August 06, 2010
As an avid reader of compelling fiction novels, I felt that Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants" was an absolute treat to read. She effectively used humor without being too overwhelmingly with her wit. The novel is structured in a way - with a an elderly man telling the story of time spend in the circus - that enables to the reader to become completely immersed not only in the plot of the novel, but in the life of the "narrator".       …
review by . June 22, 2010
Water For Elephants brings readers into the nursing home life and memories of ninety-(or ninety-three, he isn’t sure) year-old Jacob Jankowski, a cantankerous yet lovable old man who once worked on the circus. The prologue immediately draws readers into the excitement, complex love, and drama of life under the Big Top when the circus performance erupts in disaster and chaos, leaving Jacob to witness a scene that he will not reveal for the next seventy years. Though readers know the secret …
review by . June 27, 2010
I could not possibly recommend this book more; it is one of my favorite of all time. There are so many elements to this story; it is a tale of love, of pain and heart ache, of history and hard times, of adventure and a world most of us will never see. The book encompasses an entire life span, and is written so well that even the minute cliche elements feel true. It is filled with gut and heart-wrenching emotions and has a plot that keeps the pages turning. When I finished this book for the first …
review by . March 24, 2010
Absolutely wonderful
Ninety-year old Jacob lives in a nursing home where he spends most days parked in the hallway, waiting for Sundays when a visitor comes. He's excited because a traveling circus has set up next door and he can't wait to go. He flashes back to his youth during the Depression, when he was penniless and joined a third-rate circus as an almost-qualified vet. There, he fell in love with Marlena, the beautiful star horsewoman. Unfortunately, his boss was her brutish husband.       I …
review by . August 11, 2010
This is one of the first adult novels I have read in a while. I say that because I am a YA writer, so I try to ground myself in YA. However, this book was not a chore to read. I heard about this book through the production of its movie. The plot had me interested, so I did a little digging to find the book- it was really hard to find it cheap because it gained popularity so quickly. I got through this book so quickly, I couldn't believe I was done. The way Sara tells this story is amazing. I …
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
Melville gives new meaning to the word Obsession. But along the way he paints a wonderful potrait of American life on the sea in the mid 1800's.
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Touching story, wonderfully written
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
Like traveling to the 30s. Great read.
Quick Tip by . June 27, 2010
great fun
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
Couldn't put it down. Love it.
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
By far one of the best books. This is the first book by Sara Gruen I have ever read, and it has left a lasting impression with me. I cannot see a train with out thinking about this book. It captures the heart from page one.
Quick Tip by . June 17, 2010
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
The concept of this was really great but I was not a fan of the actual story. The parts in the nursing home really broke my heart.
review by . February 19, 2010
From August 2009:  I'm still working out how I feel about this book. It was so well written, goes seamlessly between the past and the present. The love story (was it between he and Marlena or he and Rosie?) was lyrically written. The author did an amazing job of pulling me back and forth between the two. I even shed a few tears over a few different things. I'm not an animal activist, but certain parts of this book made me very uncomfortable. The history of the circus is pretty well known. …
review by . December 06, 2009
Sara Gruen delivers a readable tale that's a tad too formulaic to be fully engaging. In the same way that the narrator of the story insists from personal experience that it is impossible to carry enough water to slake an elephant's thirst, I'd insist that this container doesn't hold enough water to satisfy a serious reader.    Also noted: the description of animals and animal behaviors is approximately cartoony, and takes away from the whole.    On the flip …
review by . June 21, 2009
Dogs wag their tails, cats purr and rub up against you, but do elephants really smile to convey emotion? So Sara Gruen would have us believe in her excellent novel "Water for Elephants" set during the depression era. Jacob Jankowski is near the end of his last year in veterinary school at Cornell when he has to drop out under tragic circumstances. With no prospects for the future, he runs away with a traveling circus and becomes their resident almost vet. He falls hard for Marlena, a performer in …
review by . September 03, 2009
Difficult to put down, the story stayed with me even after the book was closed. The basic string of the plot: a young man, Jacob, so overcome with grief that he runs away with the circus. Sounds like a cliche, right? Yet Gruen creates a rich world full of gritty people with lives that figuratively walk a tight rope. The traveling circus was a roller coaster of success and disappointment - Gruen brings to light the many fascinating facets of this unusual lifestyle.     Cliches …
review by . November 01, 2008
Water For Elephants
'Water For Elephants' is one of those books that is so good it's hard to write down how deep your feelings for it are. Jacob Jankowski is now ninety three years old and in an "assisted living" facility, when the circus comes to town. This brings back startling memories of his early life, when his world fell apart and he found himself on a circus train heading into his future.     On the brink of passing his final exams for veterinary school, Jacob is informed that his parents …
review by . March 18, 2009
Water for Elephants
  Stripped of everything after his parents' untimely death, twenty-three-year old Jacob Jankowski has failed to sit for his veterinary exams at Cornell, left with no home and no future, the country struggling through the Great Depression, bartering in goods instead of money. Hopping a train that by chance belongs to The Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, Jacob hires on to care for the menagerie, his training an entre into this bizarre world; but as …
review by . December 15, 2008
"Water for Elephants" is another of those novels that I somehow managed to miss reading when it was at its peak of popularity, this time by well over two years. But I'm here to tell you that, in the case of Water for Elephants, it is definitely better late than never.    Even in Depression-era America, Jacob Jankowski is doing pretty well for himself. He is a Cornell-trained veterinarian who only needs to sit for his final exams to make it official. He thinks he is in love but …
review by . August 11, 2008
I've been to the circus only once in my life, as a small child, towed along by my parents for what they surely thought would be a treat. It wasn't. We never went again. Even as a small child, I seemed to instinctively pick up on the abuse required to get wild animals to do what they do in the three rings of a circus. If nothing else, the sight of such wonderful creatures as elephants, lions, tigers, bears and various others, forced to do what they would not normally do but for cheap human entertainment, …
review by . September 27, 2007
In the great depression, a young man drops out of Veterinary school and joins a travelling circus. The story unfolds in flashbacks from his present day existence in a nursing home. The author takes us into a world of cruelty, privation and danger, which is nevertheless full of adventure and the possibility of love. The story grabs you quickly. I couldn't put this one down. I told my friends about it, and the ones who actually started it were hooked too!    The writer creates …
review by . September 04, 2007
This book was such a fabulous read. I literally felt as if I was part of the circus. A very charming tale. Totally recommend.
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