2022 Reading Challenge discussion

Water for Elephants
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ARCHIVE 2020 > Water for Elephants: Reviews by 2020 Reading Challengers

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message 1: by Winter, Group Reads (last edited Sep 21, 2020 02:10AM) (new)

Winter (winter9) | 4660 comments Tell us what you thought of the book! You can leave your review here. Even if you read the book outside of the group, please feel free to let us know what you thought of it.

Please make sure to mark your spoilers by typing "[spoiler]" at the start and [/spoiler] at the end but replacing the []s with <>s.


Alison | 1011 comments I finished this book today (my return to the library was coming due) and I have to say that I really, really enjoyed it!

Here are some of my thoughts:
(view spoiler)

This was a great September Group Read and I thoroughly enjoyed it! :)


message 3: by SarahKat, Buddy Reads (new) - rated it 4 stars

SarahKat | 3274 comments Don't read this if you're looking for some profound literary masterpiece with all sorts of grand character development and all sorts of commentary on world issues. This is simply a damn good story.

I loved the setting and the atmosphere that Gruen creates for the Depression-era circus. I appreciated that some of the things she talks about are explained, but not really gone into detail. The narrator, Jacob, has some knowledge of what these things are and Gruen doesn't over-explain things that he would know, just for the sake of the reader. Enough is explained that you are not lost, but I did end up Googling some things just because I found it interesting (jake leg, redlighting, etc.).

The one thing that made this book 4 stars rather than 5, despite reading it quickly and enjoying it fully, is the romance. (view spoiler)

The ending (view spoiler)

@Alison, I had a lot of the same thoughts! I am jealous that your copy has vintage circus pictures! Mine did not.


message 4: by Lisanne (last edited Sep 11, 2020 10:23AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisanne (wolffhoofd) | 101 comments Finished this book today and I give it 3.5 stars rounded down.

Think it would have been a lot better if the romance part was left out entirely and the focus was instead put on the friendships (e.g. between Jacob, Walter and Camel) or a found family trope that would have worked perfectly in the book’s 1930s circus setting. Because honestly the writing was really solid, engaging even, but Jacob and Marlena’s infatuation with each other just wasn’t believable to me. It felt like he was only infatuated with her because of the pink glittery outfits she wore. Also, while I hate August more than words can express (view spoiler) As I’ve said the writing was very solid and this book had some really good elements (most notably Walter and Queenie - by far my favourite characters - and circus life in the 1930s) but I would’ve loved to see a lot less of Marlena and August and a lot more of Rosie, Bobo and the other animals.


John Marshall (uberman5000) | 21 comments 3 stars.

It was a brisk and enjoyable read, but in some ways, far TOO brisk. Plot threads are resolved pretty suddenly, and there's a distracting brevity in many of the character's relationships and conflicts, with a few exceptions. The book felt like it was more interested in its research than its narrative.

Even so, it's a compelling and nostalgic portrait, and the few times it really stretches out, it makes the most of it. Those times may be few and far between, but be assured, they come quickly. Kind of like a train. 😉

Full review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 1034 comments Lisanne and John, I think I agree with you. I rated it 3 stars also. I enjoyed the first two-thirds much more than I did the final part of the book. The animals and the circus atmosphere and the various happenings were much more interesting than the romance. I also wonder if the term "paranoid schizophrenic" had truly entered the popular lexicon in the early 1930s.


Kpthebookworm | 2 comments I really enjoyed this book. The setting was so fascinating and it read really quickly which I like. I felt there were a few scenes that happened a little too quickly, and I also felt Marlena’s character could have been significantly more developed than it was. Even in the end I felt like I didn’t really know her which was a little frustrating. However, I ended up giving it 5 stars because the setting really got me. I just really loved that aspect of it, and it allowed me to overlook some other things. I really felt like I was there in some scenes, or I could picture them so clearly in my head, so props to Gruen for that for sure. I had seen the movie in theaters years ago when it first came out and wanted to read it ever since. I really liked it overall.


Carmen | 5035 comments Lisanne wrote: "Finished this book today and I give it 3.5 stars rounded down.

Think it would have been a lot better if the romance part was left out entirely and the focus was instead put on the friendships (e...."


I read it back in April and I totally agree with you (3 stars)


Serena | 24 comments Wow! I completely agree with everyone here. @SarahKat, @ Carmen, @Lisanne, I didn't find their relationship compelling either and Lisanne, I agree that the villainization of August's schizophrenia was problematic. @John, you took the words right out of my mouth with, "The book felt like it was more interested in its research than its narrative." Agree completely. I enjoyed the setting and thought it was beautifully and accurately realized (like you mention @Kpthebookworm), but characters are everything for me, and it just fell a little flat. Hope you'll take the time to see my full review here: Water for Elephants Full Review


Elina van der Toorn (elinavdt) | 26 comments I've finished the book today. I never saw the movie either, only the trailer, so I didn't have any expectations. I was rather ignoring this book for years, as I knew it was about circus and I never liked circus, not even as a child. But now I gave it a try, and finished it in a few days (or rather nights :)). What can I say. I liked it. I didn't need more character development, as I believe the main character was Jacob, and he was shown pretty well. And the second main thing was circus itself, and it was shown very realisticly. There were several moments in a book when I felt really emotional, and for me it is a good sign. I didn't need the story to be longer or more deep.


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