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Water for Elephants

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  1,075,730 Ratings  ·  55,139 Reviews
Jacob Jankowski says: "I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other." At the beginning of Water for Elephants, he is living out his days in a nursing home, hating every second of it. His life wasn't always like this, however, because Jacob ran away and joined the circus when he was twenty-one. It wasn't a romantic, carefree decision, to be sure. His parents were killed i ...more
Hardcover, 331 pages
Published May 18th 2006 by Algonquin
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Juonithz I liked the book but mainly for its premise and potential. I didn't really feel the love between the characters because they were so two dimensional.…moreI liked the book but mainly for its premise and potential. I didn't really feel the love between the characters because they were so two dimensional. (less)
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Jan 23, 2008 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooked
I think I expected too much out of this novel and therefore had room only for disappointment. Though I finished the book in its entirety, I wrote a short review on my blog about halfway through, expounding on the aspects of the book that irritated me. I have adapted it herein.

First, the main "heroine," Marlena, is incredibly flat & boring. The narrator/main character, Jacob, is clearly infatuated with her, but I'm not sure why other than she looks good in pink sequins. She's married to her a
May 29, 2008 Kevin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 27, 2007 Rachel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: romance lovers

I really wanted to like this book. I think my low opinion is partially my fault, because I drove into the story with high expectations due to rave reviews. I need to learn not to do that.

The beginning of this novel was excellent. A Ivy League dropout, who formerly studied to be a vet, runs away and joins the circus. The time period? The Depression and Prohibition America - a historical era of uncertainty and chaos. I was looking for an intriguing tale of a
Catriona (LittleBookOwl)
Oh man, this was lovely.
Jun 09, 2007 Sammy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-the-best
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

I picked up Water for Elephants after seeing the movie. You know, the one with "that Twilight guy" - who for a change was allowed to smile. And to have other facial expressions besides "permanently constipated". The math is simple:

Drum roll: Rosie the elephant works better than Ex-Lax!

But on to the book now. In addition to Jacob Jankowski's "love affair" with Rosie the elephant (and a noticeably less sweet affair with Marlena-the-bland-chick) we get a parallel story of J

RJ McGill
Jul 22, 2007 RJ McGill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Shelves: reviewed
Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants is one of those rare novels, that will be read and re-read, discussed and enjoyed for many years, by old and young alike. Destined to be passed between family and friends and back again, until the tattered, time worn pages resemble the books beloved central character and narrator.Jacob Jankowski, just days from the final exams at Cornell University that would have attached the respectable Dr. of Veterinary medicine forever to his name, had his world forever alter ...more
Whimsical and heartfelt historical fiction set in Depression-era circus....

I'm glad that I (finally) decided to read this wonderful story! I'm not sure whether it was the hype that held me back -- or indifference to the synopsis of the story... In any event, my reaction did follow the mainstream and I was hooked from the beginning.

The story is told from the point of view of Jacob - alternating time periods from current day (where he is 93 and in a nursing home) and Depression-era (where he is 23
Jun 20, 2007 Michele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now THIS is a Good Book!
When I finished reading Water for Elephants, goose bumps covered my skin. Now this is a good book! Immediately engrossed, I had a hard time putting it down as I read the story of Jacob Jankowski and his reminiscence of days with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth--otherwise known as a train circus in 1930's America.

A talented writer and storyteller, Sara Gruen takes readers on a bumpy and tense train ride through history. This tale defines Americana. Ther
Beth F.
Just to put it out there, I’ll admit straight off the bat that I’m one of the people who enjoyed this book. It was a fast read (which I always appreciate, because I’m perpetually drowning in a list of books TBR) and it was fairly easy to get through. I also didn’t see the end coming until a few pages before it actually happened, which probably added immensely to my enjoyment factor.

I’ve been reading all the criticisms of this book in an attempt to organize my opinions after reading this book. It
April 24, 2008 edition of Coastal View News

The glitz and grit, glam and sham of depression-era circus life limps along in Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” with little aid from her shoddy prose, predictable plot and underdeveloped metaphor. Although the book has a flashy appearance and is easily digested, it offers less nutritional value than promised.

When his parents suddenly and tragically die, Jacob Jankowski quits veterinarian school at Cornell University just before graduation and finds hi
Kat Kennedy
Sep 01, 2010 Kat Kennedy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like the circus. Or People who don't like the circus. Or people who have bolt cutters.
I can count the number of times I've been to the circus on one hand. Actually, realistically, on one finger.

We were taken once by my grandparents when I was about five. First, last and only time. My parents hate the idea of the circus and scorned it with all the pretentious uninterest that would likely scar their children for life, causing them to grow up embittered, solitary and convicted to write scathing, snarky reviews on GoodReads as a form or self expression in order to share their own mis
Kristina Horner
This book was PERFECT and I loved it. I want to read it again and again, and I can't recommend the audio book enough.
Jul 04, 2014 Christina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 walk
Sep 25, 2007 Kristen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is so terrible it made me physically angry. It's predictable, cliched and unimaginative. The good-hearted poor boy meets the good-hearted beautiful girl, who's involved with the bad-hearted, controlling man. Whatever will happen?

Seriously. Don't buy this book. I know the cover is pretty, and the title is intriguing, and the summary is enticing. It's all razzle-dazzle. Kinda like a circus itself.
Aug 23, 2007 Tory rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good example of why one should have no expectations when going into a book. I wanted this book to be great. I thought this book was going to be great. A depression era traveling circus and all that entails? Awesome! The author’s voice being likened to Mr. Irving? Awesome! The fact that damn near everyone LOVED it? Promising! The only other circus book I’ve read was GEEK LOVE, and holy shit. Awesome! All of this lead me to believe that I was about to be blown away.

But, it wasn’t aw
Dannii Elle
I can fully see why this book has such a polarizing effect on its readers: the circus setting led me to anticipate this as a fantastical and magical, fast-paced read, akin to The Night Circus. What was actually delivered was a moving and slow-building portrait of life as part of a circus. This was densely descriptive and evocative of the life of Jacob Jankowski, veterinarian for the Benzini Brothers' circus show, but there was little plot to move the story forward.

The novel was split between pas
Jul 21, 2007 Brenda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cotton candy junkies
I just finished reading "Water for Elephants" out on my deck. Just boo. That's my review. Boo. Not a loud boo, or an emphatic boo, just your average boo. Water for Elephants equals boo.

Why do I give this a boo rating? Mostly for the dialogue. The author tries to explain 1930s carnival vernacular through a green carnie's questions about the world around him. And the questions come out over simplified and make for unrealistic and stilted conversations.

Sara Gruen also tries to intersperse a 90-yea
Nov 03, 2010 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is truly admirable to place the plot on a moving train and its roving fairgrounds... it's like living in a cotton candy cloud. There were plenty of chances to dash the reader away, to make poetry out of the circus workers' vagrant conditions, to use the animals as characters, not just decor,... to avoid cliche. This novel is written concisely, but with often description so vague the reader just glides over it. Also, the narrator is absolutely unreliable... oftentimes he seems more hero than h ...more
Dec 17, 2014 Theresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a whimsical and fascinating novel. Some of the violence involving circus animals was a little upsetting but overall, I enjoyed reading about Jacob's story. I really liked him. :)
I wasn’t planning on reading this story, but my co-worker insisted. Since we had so much fun reading and discussing The Help, I decided to borrow the audio book from the library.

Craig enjoyed the story more than I did and gave it four stars, while I gave it just three. We both enjoyed the alternating perspectives, from that of Jacob when he’s in his early 20’s and working for the Benzini Brothers circus to the old Jacob, when he’s 90 (or 93) and living in a nursing home. We loved the large cast
In the beginning of Water For Elephants Jacob Jankowski tells us that he is ninety or ninety-three. One or the other. He's not really sure anymore. His body betrayed him years ago and Jacob now fears that his mind isn’t far behind. Shuffling along miserably behind his walker, he’s living out his final days in the nursing home and hating every minute of it. Just another invisible senior citizen who’s family and the world as a whole has forgotten about.

When the circus comes to town and sets up it
Jason Koivu
Reading this was like running a marathon on bloody stumps. It took forever and it was painful.

The subject - a vet recalling his days in a failing 1920s circus - would've interested me if the writing had been up to par. It wasn't horrible, just amateurish at times. Also, the dialogue could've been better. If the characters sounded more like they came from the '20s it might've drawn me more into the story, but they sounded like contemporaries who like to use old timey jargon. Also, I can't get do
Jan 30, 2017 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hach, was für ein schönes Ende ♥
Will Byrnes
Jan 29, 2011 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ladies and gentlemen. Direct your attention to the performer in print. You will be amazed, dazzled and mystified by the daring feats you are about to witness. Well, that might be overstating a bit. The story does open with drama, though. A circus menagerie has gotten loose and there is mayhem. The narrator, Jacob, sees the ringmaster murdered. We then scoot ahead to the present. Jacob is in his 90s and looks back, revisiting his ghosts. From here, we flip back and forth between Jacob in the pres ...more
Izetta Autumn
Somehow I feel that I have to defend why I liked this book, even though there's no one saying why I shouldn't have enjoyed it. Here's what I found most touching: the author took an fantastic premise - an orphan running away to the circus, a love triangle, an elephant, and the Great Depression and weaved a tale that doesn't make you say "bullocks," at every page. Gruen outlines use of anachronistic story telling is effective and she is skilled at moving the story along, even more adept at highlig ...more
I have a problem with books when the nicest thing people can think of to say about them is, "It is based on a true story," or, "At least it was well researched." It is the same as saying a woman "has a great personality" or a man is "super sweet". In the case of fiction, as with these backwards insults to humans, the "based on a true story" and "well researched" labels actually mean that the books are ugly or stupid. That is not to say I am against true stories or research, but if it's the nices ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Water for elephants, 2007, Sara Gruen
عنوان: آب برای فیلها؛ نویسنده: سارا گروئن (گرون)؛ مترجم: پروین آقایی؛ کرج، در دانش بهمن، 1388؛ در 383 ص، مصور؛ شابک: 9789641740674؛
مترجم: مهناز سیدعلیخانی؛ تهران، آموت، 1391، در 464 ص، شابک: 9786006605098؛
ماجرای عاشق و معشوق نگونبختی ست كه در دهه ی سی فرن بیستم، در سیرکی در آمریکا رخ میدهد. ژاکوب جانکوسکی که به تازگی پدر و مادر خویش را از دست داده و سرگردان است، به واگن قطاری در حال گذر میپرد، نخست انگار میکند وارد جهانی از موجودات عجیب شده. قطار سیرک سیار د
Crystal Craig

Recommended Reading

Every so often, a book comes along you enjoy it from start to finish. I feel this way about, Sara Gruen's, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. Yes, there was a few tough sections to read - mainly the animal abuse, but, how can a book about a 1930's traveling circus not show the reader what it was like for animals. As the reader, I want to feel what the animals feel. I thought the book was well-written, and I enjoyed the characters.

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Sara Gruen is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of five novels: AT THE WATER'S EDGE, APE HOUSE, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, RIDING LESSONS, and FLYING CHANGES. Her works have been translated into forty-three languages, and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS was adapted into a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Rob Pattinson, and Christ ...more
More about Sara Gruen...

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