18 April 2011

Review: Water for Elephants

Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Pages: 426 (Mass Market Paperback Edition)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
I began this book with no expectations. It had been on my "to-read" list for a while, and since it was less than $5 I picked it up so that I could read it before the movie came out.
I was drawn in from the Prologue. I wanted to know how the story progressed to a stampede and a secret kept for so many years. The beginning was a little slow, but picked up a little speed (ha ha) after Jacob jumped onto the train of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the description of the circus and the circus characters. I did not know much about traveling circuses. I didn't realized that circuses were able to survive (barely) through the Great Depression. Previously, the only circus I really know about is that dreaded "R" circus: The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. When I was a kid, the "Greatest Show on Earth" came around my birthday and we always went. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized how horrible the circus was to the animal performers. It's all part of the illusion, that according to August, is what people want and expect from the circus. The story has inspired me to find out more about those old circuses and gives me another perspective on surviving (and not surviving) in the Great Depression.
I enjoyed watching the story unfold, and I liked the alternating voices of young Jacob and old Jacob. I was unimpressed with the relationship between Jacob and Marlena. I was much more interested in the relationship between Jacob and the menagerie, especially Rosie. My heart broke every time Rosie was mistreated. I do not want to spoil anything, but the climax of the story made my heart cheer. I could relate to Rosie, to Marlena, and to the animal lover in Jacob.
Overall I found the book to be a quick read. I liked the characters (especially the animals) and how they had distinct personalities and voices. I was bothered by the romance that fell flat, but excited by the entertainment the big top had to offer.
If your heart belongs to elephants, be sure to check out the Elephant Sanctuary: http://www.elephants.com/. You can also read about cruelty to circus animals here: http://www.ringlingbeatsanimals.com/.


  1. I didn't read the book but I saw the movie. And as you I was got touched by the fate of Rosie. A proverb say : "Qui n'aime pas les bêtes, n'aime pas les gens".(Who does not like animals do not love people).

  2. i enjoyed this one for the circus vibe too. still gotta watch the movie version.