Buggy's Reviews > Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
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May 06, 11

bookshelves: top, fiction, historical, shelf-10, love-story
Read from July 03 to 06, 2010 — I own a copy

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 its Big Top tents across the street Jacob comes alive and through a series of flashbacks begins to tell us his life’s story. Taking us back to when he joined the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show On Earth, a traveling circus he toured with during the great depression. So step right up folks because this old man has quite the story to tell.

At the age of 23 Jacob had a predictable future set out ahead of him, one that certainly didn’t involve joining the circus. However with his parents untimely death and the bank foreclosing on his family home Jacob soon finds himself homeless, heartbroken and mentally quite unable to sit his final veterinary exams. When an exotic, animal filled train steams toward him Jacob doesn’t even think. Flinging himself aboard the boxcar and inadvertently changing his destiny forever.

I absolutely adored this book, alternately falling in love with both Jacob, the crotchety old man and Jacob, the young, moral and penniless circus veterinarian. Water For Elephants transported me to another time and quickly became one of those books I never wanted to end.

Author Sara Gruen has researched the depression era circus life down to the smallest of details and I feel that this captivating and vivid story will appeal to almost anyone. Filled with action, adventure and a sweet forbidden romance there is also a fascinating sideshow of secondary characters including a clever Polish Elephant, a grouchy little person as Jacob’s roommate and a cruel and schizophrenic animal trainer whose wife Jacob just happens to fall in love with. All of this has been wrapped together with a compelling and innovative behind the scenes look aboard a travelling circus train. Showing us more often then not the darker side of circus life after the big top closes down. This is a love story, a life story, an animal lover’s story but above all it’s a circus story and who of us hasn’t dreamed about running away and joining the circus at some point in our lives? And the ending… *sigh*

I can't say enough good about this book, its easily one of my favourite reads this year and with Robert Pattison now taking on the upcoming movie role version of Jacob, I was able to picture him while reading, making it all the more sweeter. Cheers!

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Quotes Buggy Liked

Sara Gruen
“Sometimes I think if I had to choose between an ear of corn or making love to a woman, I'd choose the corn.”
Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants
tags: humor

Sara Gruen
“The more distressing the memory, the more persistent it's presence. ”
Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants

Sara Gruen
“Keeping up the appearance of having all your marbles is hard work, but important.”
Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants

Sara Gruen
“When will people learn that just because you can make something doesn’t mean you should?”
Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants

Sara Gruen
“Why the hell shouldn't I run away with the circus?”
Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants

Sara Gruen
“Life is the most spectacular show on earth ♥”
Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants


Reading Progress

07/04/2010 page 21
6.0% "Oh I am loving this"
07/05/2010 page 124
37.0% "I am so in love with Jacob who is 90, or 93..."

Comments (showing 1-40 of 40) (40 new)

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message 1: by Julianna (new)

Julianna Nice review Buggy. I've been wondering about this book. It sounds good. I put it on my TBR list after hearing about the movie, but I usually prefer to read the book first. Being an R-Patz fan, I'm sure I'll want to see it, so I guess I better get crackin'.;-)


Buggy I can't say enough good about this book, easily one of my favorite reads this year and R-Patz is perfect for the role making reading his story that much sweeter :)


message 3: by Eastofoz (new) - added it

Eastofoz Nice review buggy. Sounds like a good one. I've been wondering whether to pick it up or not for a while.


Buggy Thanks Eastofoz, Pick it up


Janet I love a happy ending. :) putting this on my to read list. thanks!


Buggy Thanks Zosia and Janet the ending for me was perfect!


Joyzi Me too I felt the ending was perfect *sigh*


message 8: by AH (new) - added it

AH Great review, Buggy. I've been trying to get my hands on this book, but it's always out. Could it be all those RobPatz fans reading it?


Joyzi I've only read that because of Rob Pat and I'm surprised that the book is actually good.


message 10: by Buggy (last edited Nov 03, 2010 06:55PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Buggy Thanks AH and it could be a part of the problem but this is also a book that would appeal to may different people, such a great read. I Only found about Rpatz after I started reading it but it sure made visualizing the hero nice, perfect casting actually. Keep trying girl.


message 11: by AH (new) - added it

AH Did you see the photos from the filming? Very nice. Wonder when they plan to release this movie. It's going to be a long drought before Breaking Dawn is released.


message 12: by Cat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cat Really good review, thanks, I can't wait to read it now.


message 13: by AH (new) - added it

AH Have you seen the movie yet, Buggy? It wasn't bad. Christoph Waltz really played a scary August. The elephant was fantastic. I enjoyed the eye candy on screen.


message 14: by Zeek (last edited May 06, 2011 04:45AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zeek I loved this book too! Probably wait for DVD to see the movie but maybe?

"Christoph Waltz really played a scary August."

Christoph Waltz with his "nice" evil guy routine. Gotta tell ya, evil hidden behind a smile scares the bejeebus out of me.


message 15: by AH (new) - added it

AH He did the bi-polar thing very well. Scary at times, genial at others. He stole the scene every time. Reese and Rob were OK (and I love Rob) but the elephant also stole the show.


message 16: by Zeek (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zeek He was so eeeevil in Inglorious Basterds- a movie I dnf'ed actually, but he was pure genius. I can easily believe he stole the show!


message 17: by AH (new) - added it

AH I fell asleep during Inglorious Basterds - just wasn't my type of movie and I was tired.

The movie has great cinematography. There is lots to look at. I liked it on the big screen. My husband even enjoyed it.


message 18: by Zeek (last edited May 06, 2011 05:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zeek AH wrote: "I fell asleep during Inglorious Basterds - just wasn't my type of movie and I was tired."

I fell asleep to! :D Srsly, I cant think of one brad pitt movie that I actually liked, other than 12 Monkey's but he only played a secondary role, thus the reason I probably liked it. I dont get the appeal.

hmmm Well I may just have to make a point of going then. No hardship for me, I love going to the movies!


message 19: by AH (new) - added it

AH Go for the elephant. She is one good actress!!! Bring tissues, there are scenes that made me cry.


message 20: by Zeek (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zeek the book made me cry so I can imagine


message 21: by Buggy (last edited May 06, 2011 12:43PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Buggy Cat wrote: "Really good review, thanks, I can't wait to read it now."

Thanks so much CAT and Zeek.

No AH, I haven't seen the movie yet, we don't have a theatre where I live so going to a movie involves a big trip "to town" and a couple of ferries so it doesn't happen often.

When I heard that Christoph Waltz was playing August I though wow perfect casting, I'm not so much a Reese fan but Damn Rob likes good in the period costume.

I loved this book, I loved the sections with Jacob as an old man, I'm very curious how the ending will play out in the movie version. If it will remain the same?


message 22: by Zeek (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zeek see now Rob is the one turn off for me. I dont get the appeal.


Buggy I'm not saying that as a fan-girl I just think he really suits the period/type movies. I'm more excited to see Old Jacob actually, Hal Holbrock will be great.


message 24: by AH (new) - added it

AH Hal Holbrook was great!

Rob does suit those period movies. I can't wait to see him in Bel Ami. Not too much chemistry between him and Reese though.


Buggy Yay, I can't wait to see him. Reese seemed too old for the role to me


UniquelyMoi ~ The 1-click Diva Great review, Buggy! This is one people keep telling me to read, but I just haven't been able to pick it up. Your review has me rethinking that.


message 27: by AH (new) - added it

AH Go see the movie, UM - My husband even enjoyed it....


Buggy Thanks so much Dhes, I loved this book, It was one of my top reads last year. I still haven't seen the movie though


Nicole I haven't seen the movie yet . . . been debating if I should read the book FIRST, then see the movie after? Or vice-versa?

It seems that everytime I read the book first, the movie ALWAYS fails me.

I dunno what to do :(


message 30: by AH (new) - added it

AH I didn't read the book yet, but I enjoyed the movie. Not an academy award winner, but a good movie. Christophe Waltz steals the show.


Buggy I've heard Rosie the elepahnt is pretty good too. Does she get her own back in the movie version too?


Jennifer Lane I adored this novel--SG is an amazing author! The movie wasn't quite as good for me but it was still entertaining.


Buggy Hey Thanks Jennifer, She is an amazing author, the research that must have gone into this amazes me. I read somewhere that she knew nothing about circus's or the depression when she began, getting the story idea from a photograph.


Janis Think about it, wasn't it just the PERFECT ending! It still makes me smile.


Buggy I know! I totally agree. The perfect ending. You just made me want to read this again J


Nicole Awwwww . . . been meaning to read this book but I keep getting distracted. Right now, I'm devouring Lisa Kleypas' books! But soon . . . soon . . .


Buggy I have the same problem with so many books Nicole. I have about 50 books that are "next"


Janis Buggy wrote: "I have the same problem with so many books Nicole. I have about 50 books that are "next""

I'm so glad I was told about this website. I've had a list of books I've read and books to read for years. Now I know I'm not the only one. :-D Sometimes I think I'm a bit like Francie Nolan.


Buggy Yes its great here Janis, way too addictive but fun to find so many like minded people


Janis Can't wait to spend a bit more time. Been so busy lately. Even has cut into my reading time. :-( But do plan to look around soon when I have a bit more leisure time.


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