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What readers think of 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:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2006, 335 pages

    May 2007, 368 pages


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There are currently 54 reader reviews for Water for Elephants
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Sue Ellen

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.
Sue Keehnen

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.

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.

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