Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

Pages: 448
Release Date: 07 Feb 2008
Publisher: Hodder
Genre: Adult, Historical/Contemporary Fiction
Purchased Book Online

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.
Sara Gruen's Story of a forbidden love and a unique human-animal bond mixed in with the unique setting of a circus during the depression was surprisingly believable and beautiful. 'Water for Elephants' was an interesting page turner that may have disappointed a few readers with its ending, but will have others feeling content.

Where to start? There were so many things that I loved about this book. The Characters were believable and likable, the imagery was well defined and the story was put together very nicely. I think Gruen created  a true to life atmosphere of a circus by choosing to reveal the grit as well as the aesthetic to her readers. There were some great adjectives and similes Eg." ...Shone like liquid diamonds." without getting lost in the detail or distracting the reader with it.

I thought it was interesting to see something from the point of a young/old man. The novel - which travels back and forth between past and present- reminded me somewhat of "The Notebook" (I haven't read the book, but have seen the movie). There were some great characters produced and Jacob Jankowsi was the perfect character. He had a few faults, but he was kind, generous, loving and adventurous. "Water for Elephants" really opens a lot of eyes to the way we judge men or expect them to be(heartless). I had never read a novel before where a guy mentioned crying this many times, but I wasn't positioned to think he was a sook.

The relationships were well formed as were the ideologies and mannerisms of different characters within the "casts" of work within a circus. I was unaware of this and I thought it was great that Gruen - much like the show "Downton Abbey" shone a light on servants- shone a light on all the "little people" who help in the background of a show and really hold it together. I liked how some of the characters warmed up to each other over the duration of the novel, which I don't see too often in books nowadays.

The book didn't have a "wow" ending like a lot of people were expecting. I didn't really mind the ending. I thought that it made me feel Happy and content with the situation of the characters and it felt very finished.

The only thing I didn't like was some of the more sexual content. As a female reading this from a guys perspective felt a little odd and like I would rather leave some mystery about the way a man thinks. Also there is a "burlesque dancer" scene which was kind of "violating" in a sense to read because I guess I felt shamed for that character to get up and do those things in front of people. Another thing which I always Knew was there, but hadn't really thought about.

I really liked this novel and overall I think it is worth 5 Stars. Even though there were some things I didn't feel comfortable with, they were pretty mild in a sense of how "graphic" the detail was and they were accompanied by a brilliant story.

I haven't seen this movie yet and will probably wait until it comes out on dvd.

A lot of people were complaining that Marlena is too young to be played by Reese Witherspoon. In the book we aren't actually told Marlena's age, but are told that Marlena is 12 years her husbands junior and that she has been with him for 4 years. We also know that she was a young woman when she met him. However, young woman can be a lot of different ages. Also, Reese Witherspoon has a fairly young face that is very expressive; perfect for the character of Marlena. So even if she is say Forty in real life, she sure doesn't look it and mightn't be far from the age of the Character.

And Robert Pattinson is hot. Need I say more?

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