Christina's Reviews > Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
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really liked it

4 stars!

It's the 1930's, in the midst of the great depression and prohibition. At 23, Jacob Jankowski is just days away from taking his final exams at Cornell and becoming a veterinarian. He plans to join his fathers practice. Then he gets the devastating news that both his parents were killed in an automobile accident. They were behind on their mortgage and both their house and his fathers practice belong to the bank. There's nothing left for Jacob, no home to go to anymore. In a daze, he walks out on his exams and just keeps walking, coming across rail road tracks. Once he comes to his senses, realizing he needs to get back to civilization, he jumps a rail road car.
It ends up being a train for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. One of the men on board, named Camel, takes a liking to him and takes him under his wing. And this is how Jacob finds himself working in the circus, as their veterinarian. His direct boss is August, who can go from utterly charming to seethingly angry and violent in minutes. His wife, Marlena, is a performer with the show. It is with her that Jacob finds himself becoming increasingly attracted to.

Present day finds Jacob as a 93 year old ( or is it 90? ) crotchety man in an assisted living facility, mentally strong but physically, he's having a tough time after a fall. He's dealing with his own failing body and pondering on life, worrying that his mind is starting to deteriorate as well. It's through this older Jacob's thoughts and recollections that we find out his story and how his life came to the point it is now.

Honestly, while younger Jacob had the more interesting setting, I really loved the older version of Jacob. Some of his thoughts were hilarious.

"Sometimes I think that if I had to choose between an ear of corn or making love to a woman, I'd choose the corn. Not that I wouldn't love to have a final roll in the hay -- I am a man yet, and some things never die -- but the thought of those sweet kernels bursting between my teeth sure sets my mouth to watering. It's fantasy, I know that. Neither will happen. I just like to weigh the options, as though I were standing in front of Solomon: A final roll in the hay or an ear of corn. What a wonderful dillemma. Sometimes I substitute an apple for the corn."

That is a thought by Jacob as he ponders the fact that once in assisted living, the real food disapears.

The real star of this book, in my opinion, is Rosie. A bull elephant who is purchased by the big boss, Uncle Al. Rosie has some of the best personality in the book, I think. A lot of animals are a big part of this story, from horses to lions, tigers to polar bears, hyenas to giraffes and a whole lot more. While there was some animal abuse that was a bit hard to read about, to me it sadly seemed realistic to the setting and time that the story takes place in.

I really enjoyed this. It was an interesting time in history to read about, one that I don't often hear much about. It was made even more interesting by the circus life. This is my 2nd novel by Sara Gruen and so far I haven't been disappointed. Not sure if I'll end up watching the movie honestly...I feel like alot of the time, the movie version doesn't live up to the vision of the book I have in my head, if that makes sense? And I'm perfectly pleased by this book, so the movie isn't necessarily a top priority. Im just sorry that I let this book sit on my bookshelf for so long before picking it up.
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Reading Progress

July 4, 2014 – Shelved
July 4, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
March 19, 2016 – Started Reading
March 19, 2016 –
page 1
0.3% "Usually I don't read multiple books at once ( bad memory makes me easily forget details ) but I feel like I've got a slump...I don't want to give up on Mistborn, but am not motivated to read it just now. Maybe a new genre will help."
March 19, 2016 –
page 71
21.19% "I am really liking this so far. Though right now I'm preferring old man Jacob to the young version."
March 19, 2016 –
page 216
64.48%
March 20, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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Loretta Christina I feel like I'm in a reading slump too! Maybe there's something in the air! :)


Christina Oh no! Hope you're able to get over yours quickly Loretta!


message 3: by Pang (new)

Pang Awww this book about the circus? Is this book made to be the movie? O: Nice review, Chistina. ;)


Christina Thank you Pang! Yep the circus was the main setting from the parts of the book taking place in the 1930's. It was pretty interesting to read about. The movie was definitely made after the book was out for a bit.


message 5: by Brina (new)

Brina Sounds sweet but I just read a flashback book. I'm also in a slump, it's definitely in the air. Hopefully we all get out of our slumps soon.


Arah-Lynda Like you Christina I could usually care less if I saw the movie and sometimes I deliberately avoid it. I mean with some characters and settings so finely drawn in my minds eyes by the author, I really have no wish to see someone else's interpretation. There are of course exceptions but rarely does a movie ever live up to the book. I loved Water For Elephants as well. Great review.


Christina Oh no Brina, slumps are the worst! Ive been seeing alot of people dealing with one lately. Since this novel had me hooked from the beginning and im now starting a re-read of an old favorite, I'm hoping that I can avoid it! Hope you can as well.


Christina Thank you Arah-Lynda! Its good to know that others share my opinions on books into movies...I have my exceptions too, but I'm not sure this will be one of them. Glad to hear you loved this as well :)


Aj the Ravenous Reader Wonderful review, Christina. Glad to know the author didn't disappoint. I saw the movie first though so I don't think I'll read the book. It's just my weird thing. Lol.


Christina Thank you AJ :) I've heard the movie is good, but like with Harry Potter, I'd probably focus on the differences more than anything.


Sarah (Starry Night Reader) I liked this book and I liked the movie too! But I saw the movie loooong after I had read the book so I couldn't recall too many details, just the very general plot which I think the movie followed pretty closely. But I know what you mean about the movie versions not living up!!


Christina Sarah, I think if I do watch the movie I'd have to wait a while to do so too. Glad you liked this book as well :)


Loretta I always read the book first since I am not a movie goer. I'll only seek out the movie if I really enjoyed the book. Case in point, I read Rebecca and ran to the library to take out the DVD which I enjoyed as well but I really liked the book much more.


Christina Loretta, that's how I felt about The Martian...that was one I had to see the movie version of. For the most part though, I'm always happier with my mind's interpretation of a book and it's characters.


Loretta Christina wrote: "Loretta, that's how I felt about The Martian...that was one I had to see the movie version of. For the most part though, I'm always happier with my mind's interpretation of a book a..."

I agree wholeheartedly Christina! :)


message 16: by Emer (new)

Emer Great review Christina!! And the book is ALWAYS better than the film lol!! :)))


Christina Thank you Emer :)


message 18: by Anne (new) - added it

Anne Your review is thought-provoking! More especially because of the quote you added. I love it. I've always known in my heart that this book is better than the movie. They must have fractured it and presented the more jagged parts on screen :/


Christina Lmao Anne, I think That's a great way to describe the whole book-to-movie transition! This novel was really great :) I'm definitely satisfied without the movie.


message 20: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Excellent review!!!


Christina Thank you Deanna :)


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