Reader reviews and comments on Water for Elephants, plus links to write your own review.

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Water for Elephants

A Novel

by Sara Gruen

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

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  • First Published:
    May 2006, 335 pages
    May 2007, 368 pages

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There are currently 51 reader reviews for Water for Elephants
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Isaac Beadle (09/03/09)

Only inapproriate if you are a Nun.
I feel compelled to address the minority of reviews that refer to this book as sleazy and laden with gratuitous sex and violence. It is neither of these. The descriptive writing by the author is highly effective in her character and setting development. The reader can smell the circus; the despair, and the struggles of survival in the midst of the Great Depression as well as the pain, anguish, regret, and fear from the eyes of a 93 year old -or was it 90?!- widower.
Perhaps those few readers that find realist literature to be so offensive should stick to fiction that is church-approved only and stay away from the evil mainstream.
Water For Elephants is, in my opinion, a balanced, exquisite piece of literature. It rolls along at the pace of the circus train in which much of it is set, the characters feel real and believable, and it is basically a very easy read.
My only regret is that it is relatively short at 331 pages; I could easily have kept going with this one.
This story could also make for a fantastic feature film if done properly.
Lisa (07/23/09)

So well written that you can taste it..
Descriptions and easily flowing word structure made this book incredibly easy to read, (unfortunately making the story read TOO fast). The reality of the circus and the depression of the 30's made it so easy to involve myself in each and every scene. The vulgarities of the "titty show" and the other minor short scenes of mild sexuality are hardly harmful and yet so necessary to the reality of circus hands. Full of hobos and less than savory characters the dread of the poor souls in the circus are accentuated by the luxurious life of the stars of the circus. Yet the brutality of each world are seen to be equals at times, the beatings and the speak easy raid. I mostly enjoyed Jacobs demeanor both at 22 and 90 and all of the detail and beautiful scenery in between. ..... Loved the book and have been referring it to friends ever since.
Power Reviewer
dorothy (06/02/09)

Don't waste my time
I rarely put a book away without finishing it. I am supposed to lead a discussion on this book (I took over as facilitator of a book club after it was chosen), and I regret to have to bow out this time. Some of the passages are disgusting and not necessary in their entirety for the story or the reader. I gave it a try, but it's not worth my time or worth the sleazy images it left in my mind for a while after reading them.

The only reason I give it a 2 instead of 1 is because the author does show some skill in plot structure. Over all, skip this one.
Pamela Smith (05/12/09)

I usually don't like modern novels and don't trust bestseller list books. Now I remember why. The book was trashy. There was gratuitous sex, violence, murder, mayhem . . . . Gruen threw everything in but the kitchen sink. I finished it only to see if I was right about how it would end. I was. It was predictable and only appealing to prurient interests.
alisha (04/15/09)

loved it!
This book was recommended to me from one of my friends that I go to school with and I'm glad she did. I loved the growing relationship between M, and Jacob. Some may say it was hard to believe or cheesy but I think it was great. I just wanted to know more from the ending, but overall it was great! I loved it=)
Katsmeoww (11/18/08)

Could'nt Put It Down
I loved this book. I have little time read these days, but I saw a review on this novel and decided to check it out at the local library. I read the WHOLE BOOK in only a week, which is awesome considering my lack of personal time (I have 3 kids). I think I spent hours in the bathroom, whether I was using it or not, just hibernating and reading, every chance I could. I am now trying to find pics of circa 1930's circus trains and the like. This is a very very good book totally worth reading!
Sue Ellen (10/09/08)

Almost too good to be true (even in a fictional novel)
I love stories about or that include animals. However, I go into them knowing that most such stories have sad endings. I was bracing myself all the way through this for terrible things to happen to the people and the animals. In some cases, this was true. But, at certain point in the book, it just seemed everyone was scooped up and taken to Nirvana.

I also wondered why the conflict between Marlena, Jacob and M's husand couldn't have been resolved by getting rid of him. After all, Jacob was good with Rosie, spoke Polish, as did another circus worker. M's husband was bad with the elephant and did not speak the language she was trained in. Why didn't Uncle Al get rid of him? He obviously caused other problems in the circus and I can't for the life of me see why he would be in charge of the animals. Dreadful man.

At the semi-conclusion, where Jacob was scooping up Rosie and the horses, I was yelling in my mind, 'Don't forget BoBo!' And, of course, he didn't.

Almost too good to be true. However, I would love a follow-up novel by Ms. Gruen, going into more detail about the zoo years and the farm years. With lots of happy stories! If the worst thing that befalls them is the boys spilling milk 4 times that day, I can handle that.
DMc (10/06/08)

I greive
I grieve the end of this book. If it were three feet thick I would still be sitting on my numb butt unable to extricate myself from finishing it. There are just some stories you don't want to see come to an end and this is one of them. I cannot wait until a movie is made. It would make a great movie. I think most people wonder at some point in their life what it would be like to join a circus. this book satisfies a lot of that wonder. If you have not read it. go out and get it now! I am very impressed by the amount of research Sarah Gruen did on this. She is a very talented story teller.

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