Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Water for Elephants

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Water for Elephants

A Novel

by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen X
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2006, 335 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2007, 368 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

This article relates to Water for Elephants

Print Review

Jake
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 circus history is famously blurred!)

In addition to the glamorous aspects of circus life, Gruen also shows many of the harsh realities of life during the depression, such as Jamaica ginger paralysis which crippled approximately 100,000 Americans in 1930 and 1931, but is virtually forgotten today as the people effected lived on the fringe of society.

"Jake" had been legally sold for medicinal purposes since the Civil War and, because it was 70% alcohol, was widely used during prohibition (1920-1933) as a means of legally consuming alcohol (contrary to common belief, the consumption of alcohol was legal during prohibition, it was the production, distribution and sale that was prohibited). However, in 1930, the manufacturer of Jake decided to water the product with cheap, tasteless triorthocresyl phosphate (TCP). The highly toxic result (TCP is also used as a pesticide) caused temporary or permanent paralysis in 50-100,000 people.

May 2006

Filed under

This "beyond the book article" relates to Water for Elephants. It originally ran in July 2006 and has been updated for the May 2007 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Swans of Harlem
    The Swans of Harlem
    by Karen Valby
    Journalist Karen Valby's first book, The Swans of Harlem, introduces readers to the little-known ...
  • Book Jacket: The Sicilian Inheritance
    The Sicilian Inheritance
    by Jo Piazza
    Sara Marsala is going through a rough patch, to say the least. In the process of divorcing from her ...
  • Book Jacket: The Light Eaters
    The Light Eaters
    by Zoë Schlanger
    The human race is completely dependent on plants. Many people, however, give little thought to ...
  • Book Jacket: Joy Is the Justice We Give Ourselves
    Joy Is the Justice We Give Ourselves
    by J Drew Lanham
    As a recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" Grant, and a Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Master ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Romantic Comedy
by Curtis Sittenfeld
A comedy writer's stance on love shifts when a pop star challenges her assumptions in this witty and touching novel.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    This Strange Eventful History
    by Claire Messud

    An immersive, masterful story of a family born on the wrong side of history.

  • Book Jacket

    The Stolen Child
    by Ann Hood

    An unlikely duo ventures through France and Italy to solve the mystery of a child’s fate.

Win This Book
Win Only the Brave

Only the Brave by Danielle Steel

A powerful, sweeping historical novel about a courageous woman in World War II Germany.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

F T a T

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.