MLA Gold Award Site

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

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

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

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book


Page 6 of 7
There are currently 51 reader reviews for Water for Elephants
Order Reviews by:

Write your own review!

Leesa (09/10/07)

Water for elephants
The so called "gritty" scenes are much more than that. They are totally offensive and disturbing. The only reason for them is so the end of the book seems good in comparison. Anything would seem good after the first half. I only finished it because it was the first selection of a new book club I am joining. It is definitely not worth the time. The characters are one dimensional.

My friend in the book club liked it, but said she just "skipped over all of that part." If you have to "skip over" that much of the book to enjoy it, it is not an enjoyable book.
Rose (08/12/07)

Water for Elephants
I found this book a very difficult to read. If you love animals this is not the book for you. It will make you sick, It is cruel and inhumane. I thought it must get better, but it seems the more I read the worse it get. I never got past pg. 160. I read for pleasure, I got no pleasure out of the inhumane killing of animals. Those are parts the author could have left out. Just to graphic.
Rachael (08/08/07)

This author is amazing
I was surprised to find out that the author was a woman of the 21st century who had never attended a circus before researching for her novel, Water for Elephants.

I bought the novel after browsing through a few pages in a book store, as I instantly was enamored with the words I read on the pages.

I noticed the title, but didn't pay much attention to who wrote it. I quickly became immersed in the magic of the story and the entourage of eclectic characters - such as Kinko, Jacob, Marlena, August, and most importantly, Rosie.

I especially loved Ms. Gruen's presentation of the elderly Jacob Jankowski, looking back on his younger days with the circus, and giving nurses hell in the living assistance facility. His stubborn nature and ornery attitude reminded me a lot of my grandfather and I almost thought the story was something of an autobiography until I read the interview with the author at the end.

I was stunned to see that this story came from a woman's imagination with little, true tid bits from real circus history. It felt so real, I couldn't believe it was actually fiction.

As an aspiring writer myself, I found this book to be a magnificently clever work and an inspiration to pursue my desire to be a writer.

Ms. Gruen nailed it with this book and I loved it. I couldn't put it down and was so disappointed when I finished it. I wanted to read more!

What an outstanding author!
Avid Reader (07/31/07)

Historical romance
I actively disliked this book. The phony tone of the narrator, Jacob, and the simple one-dimensional sentences irritated me the most . A totally romantic book. I am cautious about buying "best sellers" and Water for Elephants reminded me why. A corny fairy tale for adults lavished with cruelty to humans and animals with no redeeming virtue of the book. Cruelty for entertainment's sake--appalling.
Marsha (07/30/07)

I see a movie starring Toby McGuire
It's that kind of nostalgia-think Seabiscuit, The Cider House Rules. Very evocative, nice twist at the end. This was a well constructed book, an easy read, enjoyable, and although you think you know where it's heading, it veers from its landlocked track and flies. I have the whole movie version cast in my head; except for the elephant.
Catherine (07/26/07)

Hard to believe
My willing suspension of disbelief just kept slipping away while reading this book. I found the contemporary speech patterns of the main character to very annoying. In order for me to continue reading I had to move it out of 1932. Beyond that, I could not believe that a guy about to graduate from Cornell would walk out of the final and join a circus. Nope, not even dead parents would make anyone do that.

The melodrama at the end, beaten to a pulp and jumping from train to train while its moving - just too hard to believe. The only thing in the book that I could believe was that none of his children or grandchildren wanted to move the Jacob out of the nursing home and into their care.
hexmr (07/24/07)

water for elephants
Y----a----w----n. This book started out with an interesting premise but as it progressed I became confused. The confusion had nothing to do with the plot but centered on which section of the book that I I purchased the book, Had I purchased it in the new fiction section of the bookstore or the romantic novel section? My memory said new fiction but my common sense said it should have been in the latter with the steamy covered books.

This book was not a mind bender but a heart tugger. The bad guys (August, Uncle Al, the mean nurse and Blackie) were so easily determined to be without social redeeming qualities that even Lucifer would hate them. The bad guys are mean, crude, cheaters, abusers, and on and on and on. And the good guys (Jacob, the lovely Marlena, Walter and Rosie the elephant) are caring, smart, honest, pretty, abused and on and on and on.

While there are many bizarre moments the prize goes the surprise party for August. This scene wins for no other reason that the heroine wants Rosie the elephant to be at the party. Give me a break.

I am being kind with a poor rating. It is not a good book.
Elaine (07/18/07)

Water For Elephants
This book was recommended to me by my sister. I was in the need of something new and different and picked it up. A third of the way through the book I called my sister and asked her why she felt I needed to read something so dark and dismal. She said keep reading. I did. Maybe the story mellowed or I became desensitized, I'm still not sure.I became a magnet to the book. It is a fantastical, realistic, sleazy, horrific and loving story about our society. (Which hasn't changed much.) But it touched my heart for the love of humans and animals despite the cruelty. I loved it.

Beyond the Book:

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Loney
    The Loney
    by Andrew Hurley
    Landscape can be a writer's best friend. Whether it's the mountains of England's lake...
  • Book Jacket: The Mirror Thief
    The Mirror Thief
    by Martin Seay
    It is easy to see why Martin Seay's debut novel, The Mirror Thief, has been compared to David ...
  • Book Jacket: The Association of Small Bombs
    The Association of Small Bombs
    by Karan Mahajan
    The Association of Small Bombs is a fictional story that revolves around an actual 1996 car bombing ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
    by Phaedra Patrick

    In a poignant and sparkling debut, a lovable widower embarks on a life-changing adventure.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Win this book!
Win The Children

From NYT bestselling author Ann Leary

The captivating story of an unconventional New England family.


Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Girl Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart

An enthralling novel based on the forgotten true adventures of one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I A Greek T M

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.