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Water for Elephants

Gruen, Sara. Book - 2006 Adult Book / Fiction / Historical / Gruen, Sara None on shelf No requests on this item Community Rating: 4.1 out of 5

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Adult Book / Fiction / Historical / Gruen, Sara 4-week checkout Due 04-02-2023

A novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932. When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.--From publisher description.


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Lets run away and join the circus. submitted by unknown on September 13, 2007, 7:18am This book is written in alternating past and present chapters. It is very interesting that ageing is presented from the viewpoint of the elderly person, which is quite uncommon. Initally, I found the chapters about the present intrusive. I was more interested in the chapters about the circus, which took place during the great depression. But both parts converge at the end. It turned out to be a unique way to flesh out a character, from both ends of his life. Sara Gruen puts me right there, at the circus, with all the excitment and sawdust. Circus life consists of moments of splender and long spells of toil, dirt and suffering. There is a strict class system in the circus. Performers at the top with private train cars and ordinary workers with no privileges, not even regular pay. But when an emergency occurs, there is great loyalty to the circus family and everyone pulls together. There is so many layers to this story. The scope of suffering connected to prohibation was much wider then I knew. Mental illness is addressed. The characters interact with great animals, who have their own stories. This book is quite a departure from Gruen's first two books, I can't wait to see what direction her next book takes.

If you read Toby Tyler . . . submitted by patricia alvis on December 29, 2007, 2:31pm I did, about a dozen times. The childhood fantasy of running away, escaping the unpleasant, experiencing the glitter. . . Sara Gruen has written a Toby Tyler for grownups. In this engaging book, a 90 (or 92) year old in a nursing home anticipates a visit to the circus with that same expectation of magic that gave childhood its wonder. As he waits, we learn of his own run away with a circus, as a desperate young man, and how the circus shaped and saved his life. Sara Gruen gives us a man to love and learn from. The ending is a gift to all of us Toby Tyler fans.

Heartwarming and Fun submitted by eringogreen on June 27, 2011, 7:14pm Although many unpleasant things happen given the subject matter, I found following this story to be an adventure, and FUN! Watching the movie diluted my love for the book a little bit, so I recommend reading the book first and, preferably, avoiding the movie. There were parts that actually made me cry in the book that weren't even included in the movie, and a lot of the humor is left out, too. The book is a beautiful work and should be left as is.

Broad Appeal, Great Plot submitted by Sara W on June 27, 2011, 8:32pm This is a good story for readers who insist on a plot where things happen - because plenty of interesting things take place. The setting is fantastic and the characters are colorful. I found the writing so-so, but it gets the job done. But people seeking artful character development and skillful writing should look elsewhere.

On the other hand, I've recommended this book to friends who would appreciate great historical detail and well-paced action. I enjoyed it as a light, pleasant and engaging diversion, but not as serious literature. And it's nice to encounter an engaging, interesting but completely accessible read sometimes.

Loved the ending! submitted by slsk on July 13, 2011, 4:24pm I went into this book with no expectations; I had seen that it had a lot of requests and wanted to see what the hype was about. I was not disappointed. Really interesting setting, good characters, and I loved the twist at the end!

Great book! submitted by egowell on July 14, 2011, 5:19pm This book was very well written and I thought the way the chapters alternated from past to present was very interesting. I would love to re read this book and recommend it to my friends. I think it is a very good writing peice and are excited to finally see the movie! :D

Water for Elephants submitted by xoxobrenda on July 17, 2011, 10:52am I read this book two years ago, and the part that stuck with me most was the development of the characters and the rich settings. Much action and beautiful writing!

i didnt like it submitted by shailu on August 1, 2011, 3:51pm good book

Sucks you in and Doesn't Let go submitted by semartin on August 24, 2012, 12:41am This book is amazing. Within pages, I was sucked into the story and immediately fell in love with the characters and plot. Definitely one of my favorite books of all time now, and it's been a long time since a new book entered that list.

Grabs your attention submitted by a2sue on July 13, 2013, 6:16pm And doesn't let it go!

Quick, easy yet heart wrenching read submitted by bchapman630 on July 14, 2013, 10:16am A great book that let's you just let go and follow the characters. There were elements of surprise, intrigue, disgust and compassion - all the makings for a great book.

water for elephants submitted by hcf on July 28, 2014, 3:08pm I enjoyed this book. The movie, not so much.

Good! submitted by purplelily on July 31, 2014, 10:09pm I could not put this book down! It jumps back and forth between the past and the present but the structure was nice and not confusing. It had a very touching ending. Some parts were a little grotesque but it overall a good read.

Awesome submitted by TLW1998 on July 28, 2019, 8:18pm This is an enjoyable book to read. I highly recommend it. The book is always better than the movie.

Easy submitted by crp on August 3, 2019, 9:55pm Easy to read, nice book club book

animal submitted by inetrockbass2002 on July 14, 2020, 5:32pm i love elphants

water for elephants submitted by maywang on July 9, 2021, 3:10pm awesome book, very enjoyable

Ugh submitted by SurfGrape on July 27, 2021, 9:41pm Ugh. Three hundred pages of animal abuse.

W for e submitted by nmrhoads on July 27, 2022, 6:20pm This was the weirdest book club type book I’ve read. Good audiobook but kinda boring

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Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books, 2006.
Year Published: 2006
Description: 331 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Format: Book

Lexile: 730


Circus -- Fiction.
Depressions -- 1929 -- Fiction.
Circus performers -- Fiction.
Parents -- Death -- Fiction.
Elephants -- Fiction.
Circus animals -- Fiction.
Triangles (Interpersonal relations) -- Fiction.
Historical fiction.
Love stories.