Rachel’s review of Water for Elephants > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Thank you!!!!!!! I felt the same way. One night while talking about books with a group of people in the book club I am in someone menntioned this one to see if anyone had read it. I said my thoughts and you would have thought I just announced I liked to eat babies or something. Thanks for making me feel like less of a freak.


message 2: by Rachel (new)

Rachel You're welcome! I'm not bothered that people like the book (each to his own and all), but the amount of rave reviews surprise me. I wish less time was spent on the romance, and more on the historical aspect of life on the circus along with a focus on the animals. That was another thing... Jacob always said his father would've wanted him to protect the animals and then August goes off to smack Rosie around and he does nothing. Argh!!

I'm glad you liked the review! :)


message 3: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth That part of the book made me sick! I just wasn't impressed. Nothing about it made me excited or really like it that much. I agree maybe if they had scratched the boring part (romance) and focused of life in the circus and the animals it would have been better!


message 4: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Yeeeeah, I totally agree with you. I suppose I could've handled the animal cruelty if the narrator, you know, did something like he said he would. Pish posh.


message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael Great review. Well stated on all points.
Except for the parts about the elephant this book was like a junior high after-school special. LAME. The main character is a complete wussy. A virgin hero with a puppy love for somebody else's wife? Jeez. I kept flipping to the back and the writer's picture and thinking she looked like a stoned kitten. I highly recommend "Spangle" by Gary Jennings if you like the circus setting. It is a truly great story.


message 6: by Kara (new)

Kara This sums up my thoughts on the book exactly. I didn't like Jacob's character at all. Why was he even a vet? He barely seemed to like animals. I was way more interested in the elephant.

Any "Life of Pi" readers? The first part of that novel took place in a zoo, and I loved the author (narrator's) passion for animals, quirky descriptions. I was hoping for that.


message 7: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Well stated! Although I didn't have any problems getting through the book quickly, I was decidedly underwhelmed by the human characters. I found it ironic that the author's comments in the end of the book said she liked to write real characters with flaws - in contrast, I found them to be rather flat.

Will definitely keep an eye out for Spangle instead.


message 8: by Lorraine (new)

Lorraine I read Life of Pi and, while I was reminded of Pi while reading this novel, I think Pi is in an entirely different class than this book. Only the zoo/animals as participating in the story link the two novels. Life of Pi is philosophical and thought-provoking. This book is a romance novel with little more to offer than some notes about what a train-circus life might have been like during the Depression.


message 9: by Dennis (new)

Dennis The most exciting and interesting part of this book, life in a train circus during the Depression, just got shoved aside for a trivial romance and as I read along, I became mora and more disappointed. Luckily it's a fast read or not just the characters in the book would have been feeling and suffering a Great Depression, I would have to for having to finish it.


message 10: by Hentyal (new)

Hentyal Wow, I thought that I was the only one that thought that Barbara was way more interesting than Marlena!


message 11: by Danny (new)

Danny Dead on! Nice review!


message 12: by Iida (new)

Iida Excellent review, finally someone voices the fact that this book is absolutely overrated.

My friend told me I had to read to read this book, so I bought it (will never again buy a book without reading it first!) and read it. But I was so pissed off by the way it turned out to be, I almost didn't finish it. In the end I decided that even bad writing is educating (mainly in the field of how NOT to write), and kept on plowing through. One of my most disappointing reads in living memory.


message 13: by Lorraine (new)

Lorraine Iida, then I suggest you stay far away from The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards too. I found it even more disappointing.


message 14: by Annie (new)

Annie Great review! I totally agree about the characterization problems, and particularly dislike Marlena as a damsel in distress type.


message 15: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Great review, spot on - I felt the exact same way about this book, although could not have worded it as eloquently!


message 16: by Gayatri (new)

Gayatri Swaminathan Hey... Nice to know my book-instinct is still operating - I've been seeing this book on the shelves ever since it was released, and the title being eye-catching and all, would pick it up every time. But somehow, I just couldn't make myself buy it, it seemed like a lemon everytime I opened a page at random... Now I feel good about having saved that money!


message 17: by Liska (new)

Liska Hmm I recognize some of the faults of the book you mention but I quite enjoyed it anyway. It's structurally very cinematic too, so I hope the filmmakers do a good job. I only wanted to comment on one line in the original review: "Besides the hackneyed stereotype of the mentally ill being violent, August's schizophrenia appeared to be a plot device to bring Jacob and Marlena together without making them look like bad people for cheating."

First of all, August is not a paranoid schizophrenic by a modern definition of the word. Secondly I also dont think it's meant to be a plot device to excuse his behavior or Jacob and Marlena's affair because I think Big Al was meant to be just making it up. That's why he mispronounces it. August wasn't diagnosed with anything, Big Al was thinking on his feet, looking for excuses, especially ones he thought made him sound educated and on level with a Cornell educated doctor. And, back in the 30s, it would have been a phrase he would have heard in radio dramas or read in pulp novels where it was very popular and used interchangably with "split personality" (the two disorders are not at all related however).

In addition, I would say August IS mentally ill but not the way Big Al means, and certainly not the way a schizophrenic is. Schizophrenics are out of touch with reality. August has a personality disorder - he is a sociopath and a narcissist - and a touch of some kind of mood disorder, maybe bipolar. The alcoholism only made it all worse.

Anyway just my two cents...


message 18: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Hodges I adored this book and couldnt disagree more.

I thought the characters were well developed and loved that I could literally hear, smell, and see the circus.

I loved the way the book went back and forth between old and yound Jacob. Loved the prologue at the begining. And I loved that the characters were flawed. Who wants to read a story about perfect people who do perfect things?

Sometimes a "simple" written "romance" novel is just what I need. I dont need to always have an elevated work of literatuire in my hands to be happy with the read.


message 19: by Reva (new)

Reva i agree! when i finished the book i was just like, "okay, i'm done." there was no good feeling left from the story i read or any desire to read more of it! i'm hoping that the movie will delve al ittle deeper into the characters and plot!


message 20: by Emily (new)

Emily I totally agree with you. I actually like Jacob, but I never actually saw why he fell in love with Marlena, other than their shared love of animals; and could never justify their affair. I don't really like justifying affairs anyway, but sometimes I can understand why people do it. With J&M, I sort of felt like August was right. I would NEVER justify spousal abuse and don't in this case, but August was suspicious and had every right to be.

The only place we differ is I did think the sex could have been toned down. I understand it's going to happen and am glad is was worse, but scenes like Barbara stripping and the two women with drunk Jacob was a bit much for me.


message 21: by Steph (new)

Steph I totally agree with this review, especially on the points regarding Marlene, except I think she did have one flaw. It was pretty much the only one we got to see since her character was so undeveloped, but her inability to help herself with regards to August is what drove me the most crazy. The damsel in distress act? Not again...


message 22: by Mademoiselle (new)

Mademoiselle Coco i was lucky to have read it before it became a best seller. no reviews no high expectations....which is why i guess i enjoyed it so much.
I loved the characters, the setting, the era and the mentality of it. I felt the characters fit with the era they were in perfectly.


message 23: by Stephie (new)

Stephie You're spot on with the characterization of the female characters. I thought they were all very boring and tame. It's really not fair that females are still represented as passive characters. It's the 21st century people!


message 24: by Pat (new)

Pat Wow... I actually liked Marlena -- all that foot-wiggling and all. But you're right. Stereotypic as heck. Disagree re Walter though... he was as bad as the rest. Oh well.


message 25: by Monica (new)

Monica Very very well said. One of my biggest problems with the book was the poor development of most key characters. Walter being a very significant exception, and probably my favorite.
And just like you said, the story is just a romance -- nothing more. Nothing wrong with that... but it's been getting so much buzz, no wonder you, I, and by the looks of it many other readers, expected more.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Liska wrote: "Hmm I recognize some of the faults of the book you mention but I quite enjoyed it anyway. It's structurally very cinematic too, so I hope the filmmakers do a good job. I only wanted to comment on o..."

I agree Liska. I think Uncle Al was just making shit up. I also liked the book, though I agree with your analysis . r a c h a b e t h . I found the researched items that Miss Gruen took and implemented were real gems. I liked the elements outside of the romance enough where it counteracted my disappointment in Jacob and Marlena. I especially love Rosie taking out August, which I'm sure makes me a little eVil. I do wish Jacob would have at least went back and looked for Walter, after all they went through and all that.

Thanks for the great review! I'm glad I wasn't the only one who had problems with the character development.


message 27: by A (new)

A I agree with a lot of this review. I think the atmosphere and circus history were wonderful to read about, but as I got further into the story, I realized that I was mostly skimming over the romance and focusing in on the history. Jacob had some development, but I mostly felt he was too goody-goody and his happy ending was undeserved. Marlena was just dull. The side characters were all much more interesting then the lead couple, which is not a good thing for a novel.


message 28: by Holdynb (new)

Holdynb It is very cinematic, I know a movie is soon to come. But 1 star, really? Come on...


message 29: by Aria Jocamari (new)

Aria Jocamari I agree with Holynb, but I really do understand where your coming from. I thought it was really good, and the fact that the author would jump in time periods was great. It answered my questions about what Jacob would end up after "running away", from the circus.


message 30: by Rachel (new)

Rachel I'm one of the ones who complains about the sex, and I just want to offer that while I realize's the setting made it very realistic that "middle class morality" did not apply to this microcosm (despite how Jacob ironically tries to impose it), I felt like the sex was just grotesque to the point of distraction. It didn't lend an air of realism to it because it was too heavy-handed. Funnily enough, I was talking with a friend the other day and I realized this might be one of the few times where the movie is better than the book. Most of my issues with it were narrative, so it might actually translate to screen better than others. Still, I am making no plans to run out and see it in theaters!


message 31: by Nyla (new)

Nyla I'm only about 10 chapters into this book...I do like it, but when Jacob kisses Marlena, it just seems to have come from out of no where. I mean, there really was no "I thought she was beautiful" sort of thinking, atleast not that I remember reading thus far. So when he kissed her it almost just seemed like it was thrown in there.

Am I wrong?


message 32: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I feel better that I'm not the only one who wanted to like this book & then didn't.


message 33: by Rachel (new)

Rachel WOW. I'm surprised this review got so much feedback, considering I wrote it such a long time ago! :O


message 34: by Saby (new)

Saby I think your review nails it! I'm making reference to this review in mine! ;)


message 35: by Samwin1 (new)

Samwin1 I liked this book because of the Old man side of the story. It got me thinking about how old people are shoved aside and their stories ignored. Jacob led a very colourful and rich life, but was left to just rot. I loved the ending and think the book.


message 36: by Brandy (new)

Brandy Shark I'm not against sex scenes or sexual content, but I want them to be well written. Every sexual encounter was sloppy (no pun intended) and when we finally reach the sex scene with Marlena, it made me cringe.


message 37: by Rachel (new)

Rachel I can't remember the sex scenes since I wrote this review a few years ago (and I'm pretty sure I mentally blocked out the part when Jacob and Marlena got together hahaha), but I agree with you, Brandy. Ever since I've read GRRM's series, I've developed a passionate hatred for poorly written sex scenes. I'm sure if I went back to this book and checked out the explicit bits, I'd roll my eyes and wonder why the author didn't hire a ghost writer to write the sexy bits!


message 38: by Brandy (new)

Brandy Shark . r a c h a b e t h . wrote: "I can't remember the sex scenes since I wrote this review a few years ago (and I'm pretty sure I mentally blocked out the part when Jacob and Marlena got together hahaha), but I agree with you, Bra..."

Sorry, I didn't realize the review was a few years old! lol. But yeah, the book was just poorly written. I've decided that life is far too short to waste it on books that just make me groan and roll my eyes, much like this one did. It wasn't just the sex scenes, it was almost all of it. I didn't believe for one second that the narrator was a man, because it felt like a woman trying her best to prove that the narrator was male. I'm sorry but thinking about sex all the time doesn't give you a believable male voice.


message 39: by Alessandra (new)

Alessandra I fully agree with everything you said. Thank you.


message 40: by Veronica (new)

Veronica I liked this book more than you did, probably because I had low expectations to start with, but you make some great points.


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