RJ McGill's Reviews > Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
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it was amazing
bookshelves: reviewed
Recommended for: Everyone!

Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants is one of those rare novels, that will be read and re-read, discussed and enjoyed for many years, by old and young alike. Destined to be passed between family and friends and back again, until the tattered, time worn pages resemble the books beloved central character and narrator.Jacob Jankowski, just days from the final exams at Cornell University that would have attached the respectable Dr. of Veterinary medicine forever to his name, had his world forever altered when his parents were killed in an auto accident. Alone, frightened and penniless, the 23 hopped a train, never intending to “run away with the circus”… although, looking back, as he sat in the nursing home telling his story, it seemed fate didn’t much care about intentions, especially during the depression. It was hard life, the Benzini Brothers Circus, hailed as the Most Spectacular Show On Earth - which of course meant, it wasn’t Ringling and anything that wasn’t Ringling… well, wasn’t Ringling. And so it went, from town to town, day after day — set it up, tear it down - the freaks and geeks, midgets and clowns worked, ate, performed, lived and often died together. The harsh conditions are made even more unbearable at times, by the greedy manager, Uncle Al and his insane animal trainer, August. Yet somehow, in the midst of despair friendships and laughter persevered. Although much of the laughter was alcohol induced, during the height of the depression and prohibition, you took what you could get.

The narrator’s transition from the young circus vet, to the elderly, cantankerous nursing home resident is a well crafted, bi-lateral view that pulls the reader into this fictional world and never lets go. Whether in his twenties admiring beautiful, equestrian performer, Marlena and caring for the animals he loved so dearly or in his nineties mulling over where to have breakfast and the indignities of old age, the warm, quick wit comes through loud and clear. From the big top to the nursing facility Gruen’s sharp, three dimensional, fictionally fluid characters will have you laughing out loud one minute, mouth agape in sheer terror the next.

Hurry, hurry, step right up, readers and book lovers everywhere - if you hunger for a reading experience chock full of every conceivable emotion, beautifully written and wholly engrossing, Water for Elephants is a wondrous world, where fact and fiction combine, delivering the most memorable and pleasurable hours, you will be spend with a book. Characters so sharply drawn and wrought with emotion that there nearly flow off the page. Sara Gruen’s depictions of depression era America is as beautiful as it is haunting. From unspeakable cruelty and brutality, to selfless acts of kindness, Water for Elephants not only has it all, but delivers it with unapologetic honesty and genuine heart felt passion. This remains one of my top 5 favorite books.

Happy Reading!
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 22, 2007 – Shelved
October 2, 2007 – Shelved as: reviewed

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)

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Nancy RJ McGill should be a writer herself. I was vascilating about reading this book, because many of the other reviews were negative. RJ's review convinced me it was worth giving it a try. I definitely wasn't sorry. Thanks RJ!!

Heather Convinced me too. (:

Frank Really? You guys think that about this review? She's wrong about everything. Gruen can't write.

Heather Too late. Bought it from barnes&noble the other day ! I guess I'll see how it goes.

message 5: by Viv (new)

Viv Heather - how did it go? Did you like it?

message 6: by Shannon (new) - added it

Shannon Parnell I loved this book and this is a great review. I couldn't put it down and at the end I needed to know what happened to him.

Julianne Awesome review, it was nice after reading all of the negative ones!

Rhona I agree....enjoyable....glad I spent the $6+

message 9: by Noelle (new)

Noelle Heiser because of the amount of negative reviews there are my opinion is swayed in their direction. Although i will eventually read the book, im not all too excited ti read it because of the negative reviews. The troubling thing is that i cannot stand a book without strong characters so im not sure how it will.go...

message 10: by Sierra (last edited Sep 26, 2011 10:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sierra Elsfelder I read the book Water for Elephants over the summer and it gave me chills. The transition between Jankowoski as an old man to his circus boy days were confusing but had a lot of rhythm. I liked this book a lot and I'm hoping I find more books like this one to read. It was very dramatic and left me begging for more as the words spilled across the page. It is by far my favorite book I’ve read in a while.

Hannah I love your styleof writing: I find the opening to this captivating and very interesting to read.

Lauren I was planning on reading this book because 'I thought I should'...but after reading your incredible review, I can't wait to get started. Thanks you so much, you are a very talented writer yourself.


Michelle Smith Rj - What a beautiful review! I loved how you said, "Hurry, hurry, step right up, readers and book lovers everywhere!" You should write something of your own. You have a fan in me!

message 14: by RJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

RJ McGill Many thanks to ALL that took the time to read my review. :-)

message 15: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Mowdy What a great review.....I haven't read it but am looking forward to picking it up at my next trek to the book store and enjoying it myself !

Daria Tyuneva Read and re-read? Seriously? I think once is more than enough.

message 17: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Rucker Will YOU write a book?! I could never be so talented to write like this!

message 18: by RJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

RJ McGill Jennifer,
Thank you for reading my review & Big Thank Yous for your kind words!

Catherine Sherman i hated this book i was wanting it to be good very disappointing

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