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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:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2006, 335 pages

    May 2007, 368 pages


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There are currently 52 reader reviews for Water for Elephants
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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.

Not entirely original, but a good read
I wonder if anyone else caught the fact that the ambiguity about who killed August is really reminiscent of the Life of Pi ending. Down to having an orangatang involved in the story. That struck me immediately upon reading the ending and realizing he might have revised his memory to protect himself as Pi did in his recounting of the shipwreck he'd endured by turning all the humans into animals. Second, the initial descriptions of the circus and depression were right out of the set of Carnival, the hit HBO show of a couple of years ago. Other than that, I enjoyed the story. I bought it on CD and loved the way the actors read the story. I especially loved her portrayal of the nursing home, in a sad way. I had a great great aunt in a nursing home that we visited regularly when I was young and I was horrified my parents and grandparents had her there. She was obviously very unhappy, although it was an expensive and clean place. All the details Ms. Gruen captured - the bad smell, terrible food, "turnips" parked outside their rooms, etc. really brought back the memories of my great great aunt's experience. I thought she did a wonderful job of portraying Jacob's sad frustration with the place and loved the idea of his running away to the circus as far fetched as it was.

Good Story
Loved the story but did not think writing style was all that great.

This book was recommended to me by so many people, strangers and friends alike. After all the enthusiastic recommendations, I couldn't wait to start reading Water for Elephants. Sara Gruen does an incredible job of reeling you into the crazy circus life. Even with that being said, I found myself bored by the story! I rushed through the remaining chapters just so I could finish the book and be done with all the drama. Maybe I set my sights too high.

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.
Power Reviewer

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.

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.

I expected...
Half-way through the book I came up with my OWN ending and thought for sure that was where this book was headed. I was disappointed by the "easy" tv ending.

I was convinced that the old man was experiencing memories that were, in actuality, not his own, but those of the other old man who angered him by claiming that HE'D delivered water for the elephants.

THAT would have been a nice left turn. And would have made so much sense since the nurse herself explained to him that men often alter their memories to make them their own.

Even so, I enjoyed the book.

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