Winner of the 2007 BookBrowse Diamond Award for Most Popular Book.
An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.
When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, 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.
Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.
Only three people were left under the red and white
awning of the grease joint: Grady, me, and the fry cook. Grady and I sat at a
battered wooden table, each facing a burger on a dented tin plate. The cook was
behind the counter, scraping his griddle with the edge of a spatula. He had
turned off the fryer some time ago, but the odor of grease lingered.
The rest of the midwayso recently writhing with peoplewas empty but for a handful of employees and a small group of men waiting to be led to the cooch tent. They glanced nervously from side to side, with hats pulled low and hands thrust deep in their pockets. They wouldn't be disappointed: somewhere in the back Barbara and her ample charms awaited.
The other townsfolkrubes, as Uncle Al called themhad already made their way through the menagerie tent and into the big top, which pulsed with frenetic music. The band was whipping through its repertoire at the usual earsplitting ...
A highly enjoyable, well-researched, somewhat romantic read that brings to life the era of the traveling circus and small town America during the Depression.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (434 words).
Sara Gruen's first novel, Riding Lessons, was published in 2004. She is an animal lover who lives with her husband, three children, five cats, two goats, a dog, and a horse in an environmental community north of Chicago. She says that she was a day away from starting a different book when she saw an article in the Chicago Tribune about a photographer who documented train circuses during the 1920s and 1930s - she was immediately hooked. Within weeks she'd tracked down many out of print books on the subject and spent days at the Ringling Circus Museum. Her research took a full year, and many of the more extraordinary scenes in the book are based on fact or anecdote (as Gruen points out the distinction between the two in ...
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