Author: Sara Gruen
Cover copy: “In Depression-era America, everyone’s running away from something. Some people join the circus to escape. Jacob Jankowski hitches a ride on a freight train and in that instant his life changes. By morning, he’s landed a job with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he’s in love.”
My thoughts: I had heard a lot about Water for Elephants before I picked it up, some people loved it while others were less enthusiastic so I was intrigued from the beginning. After finishing the book I can understand both sides of the argument, the story has a hint of drama for dramas sake and the animal cruelty can be disturbing to read but behind that there is a endearing love story filled with excitement.
Set in Depression-era America our hero Jacob Jankowski has his life turned upside down. Jacobs response to his emotional turmoil is to run away with the circus where he meets Marlena and thus the fairytale begins. Jacob is a very likeable character from the beginning, his willingness to help out those around him and his obvious concern for the animals endears him to the reader so we are left hoping for a happy ending to his story. Marlena is cast as the classic heroine, the damsel in distress some might say, and her relationship with Jacob provides her with a happy release from her turbulent marriage.
Gruen brings vivid detail to life as part of a travelling circus, her descriptions of the characters, living arrangements and atmosphere heighten the enjoyment of the reader. Overall Water for Elephants is an enjoyable well written novel that doesn’t demand too much thinking from the reader.
“Dear God. Not only am I unemployed and homeless, but I also have a pregnant woman, bereaved dog, elephant, and eleven horses to take care of.”
“Although there are times I’d give anything to have her back, I’m glad she went first. Losing her was like being cleft down the middle. It was the moment it all ended for me, and I wouldn’t have wanted her to go through that.”
“So what if I’m ninety-three? So what if I’m ancient and cranky and my body’s a wreck? If they’re willing to accept me and my guilty conscience, why the hell shouldn’t I run away with the circus?”
A well written story about love overcoming obstacles. Gruen has created a non taxing novel that has the ability to appeal to a wide audience with its colourful characters and well thought out love story.