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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • 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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Dewey (11/11/07)

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.
gingeralicedaire (10/25/07)

Cheap Ending
What a cheap ending! All this drama and otherwise good writing wilts at the end. I enjoyed the story and stayed up past midnight to finish the book in one day. Then I felt totally cheated by the cheezy ending. Surely something better could have been devised?
Frank (10/25/07)

Perhaps I demand too much from an author. For me, there was no depth to the characters, no development. As one reviewer said, characters were "one dimensional". This book had potential, but I feel it failed to achieve anything but the disclosure fo the cruel treatment of people and animals by circus owners and their unbelievable greed. While the past and present flip-flop of Jacob's life could have been clever, I felt there was a complete disconnect between the two.
Jeremy Eames (10/14/07)

An Endearing Book
As you walk through the scratchy canvas flaps into the grandiose circular tent, the smell of freshly popped popcorn hits your nostrils. You hear vendors hawking their wares with shouts of “Get your peanuts, get your freshly salted peanuts right here.” You duck as a bag flies over your head making the hair on your neck snap to attention. Then you turn the page. Water For Elephants, by Sara Gruen, is an outstanding piece of fiction that can so envelope the reader as to render them mute for hours on end while he frantically flips the pages, piecing together a you mans life. Any reader, who picks up this book, until the last word of the last sentence, is completely spellbound.
   The story opens to a chilling murder that won’t be resolved until the end of the novel. From here the story proceeds to follow the reminiscing of a ninety or ninety-three year old- he can never remember which- stuck inside a nursing home when out of the blue a circus arrives in town. From here the author takes you back in time to when this gentleman was in his early twenties. On track to become a veterinarian within a week, his life is devastated when his Polish parents are killed in a car crash. This leads to his subsequent lack of interest in his final exams and ensuing withdrawal from an Ivy League institution. Almost immediately he joins with a circus, befriends a dwarf, falls for a lovely woman, and declares war against her insane husband. Much of the remaining plot is intricately woven through hooker tents and riotous crowds. From one man's feelings for a married woman and lone dwarfs sexual needs.
   Because of its fast pace, divine story, and thorough descriptions this is truly a book to be savored. Full of excitement and adventure, this is sure to be a staple of modern fiction for years to come an, who knows, might even end up on a summer reading list or two.
Maria (09/29/07)

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.
Kristine (09/27/07)

Water for Elephants
I am an animal lover and I was warned by the book club leader that I may not be able to get through this book, but I couldn't put this book down after the prologue. I thought Sara Gruen did a fantastic job with the narrator and I liked the switching between present and past. Some people will be extremely bothered by the abuse that goes on with both people and animals in this book, but remember there was very little regulation regarding animal abuse or spousal abuse during the time the story takes place. Don't let other reviewers scare you away from reading this book. This is one of my favorite books this year. It did not disappoint me, but rather left me wanting to read more!
Sam Dutz (09/24/07)

Very Good
I loved this book very much. It gripped me from the prologue all the way until the last revelations. It brings in the reader and keeps them trapped in the book until the last page.
Angela (09/16/07)

This book was given to me from a member of our bookclub. I was a little unsure of the book at first. but as they say, don't judge a book by it's cover. So true with this book. I absolutely loved it! It's a wonderful, intense story of one man's life. So true in both what the gentleman is going through in his time now and back in history with the circus. I loved how the author was able to bring to life the circus of his past and how it is reflected in his life today. It is both happy and sad. A book you can't put down till the end. And in the end you cheer! Yes! Thank you for this beautifully written story! I throughly enjoyed it.

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