Sunday, October 31

Book Review: Water for Elephants

Title: Water for Elephants

Author: Sarah Gruen

Pages: 335

Summary: When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob 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.

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I don’t know why it has taken as long to read this book as it did, but I couldn’t put it down. I was pulled into the life of the circus, and of Jacob life - both past and present. The book also touches n a lot of issues, in such a small span, but everything is handled so well and comes together creating a very beautiful story.

I really enjoyed Jacob’s character, the young Jacob was a bit na├»ve at times, but it worked well with the theme of a coming of age story. Jacob’s growth throughout the book is extremely well done and to see him as an old man, who is alone and a bit senile and recounting his life when he dropped out of school and joined the circus. I know the quick summary, is one that many small children dream of, but it really is a lot better than it sounds. The circus, of course is filled with eccentric characters, but all are not what they seem. Walter was a favourite of mine and so was Roise, the elephant. I can’t believe how much characterization was created in an elephant; she really had her own personality and was always fun to read about. Of course there are the characters you can’t stand, and love to hate, and can’t wait until they get what they deserve, but overall watching Jacob as a young boy and the parallels and contrast of him as an elderly man, were beautifully done.

Issues such as animal abuse, spousal abuse, and the effect s of the depression are present throughout the books, as well as old age. There were some parts as I watched Jacob as an old man that was very touching and sad. The author easily played with my emotions here - and the ending made me cry. A good cry, happy ending of sorts, I won’t say more, but I absolutely loved the ending!

What I didn’t like. I would have liked to learn more about Jacobs life, between the two extremes, the circus and old age. There was so much more to his life, and I kind of wanted more. I also wasn’t a big fan of Marlena, I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t think she was a big deal, or what Jacob saw in here. There were also a few parts that I didn’t like, they weren’t bad, but I was shocked to see what had happened. Other than that, the book was very well done.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes! This book is amazing. I really don’t think I can convey into words about what this book is like. Just bring the tissue, the ending is very touching. It isn’t for everyone, but I think the majority of readers would enjoy the book.

What to read next: The Stone Angel, The Notebook

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, 451 Challenge, Canadian Book Challenge, Fall into Reading Challenge, RYOB Challenge


  1. Great review. I have this on my Fill In The Gaps list. I need to actually get my hands on it!

  2. That really puzzles me because although I haven't read this one, I have read her latest, Ape House, and it was terrible. It was really trashy and the writing was awful.

  3. I have this book on my shelf and have not gotten around to reading it yet. It does sound like something that I would enjoy, but my eyebrow did raise with your mention of animal abuse. I am going to have to let you know what I think of it when I am done!

  4. Linda - It's a great book, and glad it's on your list, I hope you get your hands on it soon. Well worth reading.

    Becky - Sometimes authors just have a fluke of a book, perhaps that was what happened with that one. Shame, you say that, I've heard great things about her new book, so I'll have to look more into it. Although, Apes isn't something I'm that interested in.

    Zibilee - The animal abuse isn't that graphic, but it is there. It covers a lot of abuse of animals in circuses, it's real examples I guess you could say, and surprising, but it doesn't take a way from the book, nor did it turn me off of it.