Staci Woodburn-Henry's Reviews > Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
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's review
Sep 01, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction

I'm a bit divided over how to rate this novel. There were really two parts to it. I loved the old man narrating from his nursing home. He was funny and real and completely charming. Then there was the story he was narrating, about his younger days. Most of this I liked well enough. Joining the circus and traveling around America during the Depression made for interesting settings and characters. I read it in a day, so obviously I was into it; but...

the love story fell flat for me. I just didn't find it plausible. For one, they barely spoke to each other before confessing their undying love and sacrificing everything to be together. And the main character (the younger version of the old man narrating) was flat. For one, he was just too melodramatic. Always throwing up at the sight of gore or fainting at thought of injustice. I just don't buy those sorts of immediate physical reactions (over and over and...) He's completely one-dimensional and that dimension is all justice and honor and chivalry and selflessness. The main character (as a young man) would have been far more sympathetic and believable if he had flaws or struggles.

The author also tries to fit in one too many life lessons for her readers. Be kind to animals. Treat the elderly with respect. Don't trash talk Jews or poor people or minorities. Don't stand for domestic abuse. It doesn't jive well with the 1930's setting. In all, it just tried to hard and ended up being too much of everything. Too much causeless emotion. Too much drama. Too many incredulous coincidences, etc. Too much.

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