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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Sue Keehnen (09/11/08)

Yes, good book.
One of my discussion groups here in Spokane read this book and it was one of the rare books that we all enjoyed reading. Most of us like books that are more in depth than this one is but enjoyed the story line and how Jacob would "come out" at the end. (The deeper books don't appeal to our one or two older ladies who want a "good" read, i.e., something gentler and no sex-drugs-rocknroll.) However we all agreed that this was an enjoyable book.
Mandas (09/10/08)

I personally enjoyed this book very much. I was looking for a good book to read and I had no idea what to choose. I asked a co-worker and she told me that she just finished "Water for Elephants" and she loved it. The next day I went to the book store and bought it. I really didn't know what it was about and I hadn't heard a whole lot about the book. I started it right away I thought that the beginig was a little depressing and I was confused, but once I got into the plot I enjoyed it to the full extent. I loved the connection that Jacob had with Marlena and the way that he spoke of the circus reminded me a little bit of being a kid and finding things to be so magical. It was also interesting to hear all the conflicts that go on behind the scenes. Overall I found it to be a very good book and a great read.
Allison (09/01/08)

Not a
The novel was easy to read as the vocabulary and storyline were not complex. I found some of the older Jacob's ideas and lines interesting, but whenever I doubt the honesty/bias of a narrator, I often do not enjoy the story. (i.e. The Catcher in the Rye)

The abuse of the animals was difficult to read about and just barely scratched the surface of reality. The relationship between Jacob and Marlena was not believable, perhaps because I found Jacob's character so underdeveloped.

It was a cute story, simple to read, but not the glorious novel others believe it to be.
SP (07/27/08)

A world of wonder
Water for Elephants is an enchanting tale of life, love, and the gruesome details that come with each. Gruen traps you in her magic spell as murder and majesty combine to make one of the most spectacular tales of all time!
Gil Deane (06/12/08)

This is a great book?
This book was hyped as something special...what a disappointment...the writing struck me as coming from an average high school person...the dialogue was predictable and the flow of the action equally so. The only thing that I found interesting was the
depiction of circus life.

My conclusion is ...don't waste your time.

P.S. The vintage photographs were interesting.
Power Reviewer
Kim (04/13/08)

Average effort
I’m not sure why, exactly, this novel has been so well-reviewed. It was OK, certainly worth reading, but I found the writing to be rather pedestrian. The word that most often came to my mind while I was reading it was “predictable.” While there were some nice twists in the novel, the reader could see too much of it coming. Most of the characters, too, acted/reacted true to type. I liked it enough that I’ll probably pick up the author’s next work, but it’s definitely not one of those, “You’ve just GOT to read this!” books.
Whitney (11/29/07)

Water for Elephants
I just recently joined a book club at the library and this was the first book that I read. I had wanted to read Water for Elephants for quite a while and was glad I was making the time to. To be honest, I don't think this book lived up to all the hype. It was a cute story but I never felt any character-reader relationship with anyone in the circus. I had mixed feelings about Jacob because even though he was a sweet kid and I liked him the best out of all the characters in the novel, he also committed adultery with another man's wife and sat back and watched as both August and Uncle Al treated the animals and performers like crap. As I said before I really didn't care for August and Uncle Al as they treated their "co-workers" horribly and just seemed like the stereo-typical evil-doers. Neither of their deaths came as a surprise to me nor did I really care as I had no emotional attachment towards either one. Marlena I found extremely annoying and it felt like all she ever did was lay on her back and cry, I know that's harsh but I think there is some truth to it. Sadly enough, Rosie was the only one I felt any attachment to or really cared about. One thing that did surprised me was who killed August, I read the prologue before reading the book and the author made me think that Marlena did it. I did enjoy this book and am glad I read it I just never felt connected to the characters or the storyline. Overall, the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth was not very spectacular.
Equinesportsmed (11/18/07)

Plot that plods like an elephant
Did you ever ride a cheap carnival roller coaster, where you hear each gear ka-chunking into place as the car laboriously starts out along the teeny-tiny track. That is an apt metaphor for this book, carny setting and all. I was not surprised in the least to read an interview with the author in the back, wherein she explains that she fell in love with the world of depression-era circuses and contrived to write the novel about it. Every plot element and character is just that: contrived. The writing is clear and simple--kind of USA Today level--but no one in this book thinks or talks like people from the 1930s. As it so happens, I am a veterinarian from Cornell. In the book, Jacob’s Polish veterinarian (?!) father is killed in an automobile accident, leaving him destitute because his parents mortgaged their house to pay for his "ivy league" education. Did Ms Gruen have to work so hard to have Jacob speak Polish and leave home? Even if his parents died destitute, there would be no reason why he could not take over the practice--it's not like the bank could take the local clients away. And the loss of family home... Cornell's college of veterinary medicine was and remains a land-grant school, i.e. a highly subsidized portion of the agricultural education system of New York. No one had to mortgage their house to attend Cornell's agricultural or veterinary college. And the veterinary detail is so incredibly lame! Horses don't founder for no reason, and there certainly was palliative care, which any horseman would know. And the scenes of gratuitous cruelty, such as slitting old horses’ throats to feed the cats-- surely Ms Gruen, author of Flying Changes, is an equestrian enough to realize any horse not dead yet would quickly overpower the inept horse butcher or run away. If you are bringing people in to a “lost world”, at least try to make the detail plausible!

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