Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Firstly, buy this book.
Secondly, buy this book NOW!
'Water for Elephants' is richly narrated by the now-geriatric main character, Jacob. His life was all planned out – he was studying to be a vet. Then everything changed with the sudden and tragic deaths of his parents in an auto accident.
Since Jacob's kind-hearted father, a local doctor, would not turn away a patient who could not pay, and was rarely paid with actual money since there was a depression going on, there had been nothing for them to leave Jacob. Even their property had been mortgaged to fund him attending veterinary college. He was destitute. Alone.
With no home to go to, Jacob wanders, at a loss what he should do, where to go. And suddenly, a caravan of traveling circus trains pulls up beside him. He's hired to tend the animals by the odious little dictator who runs the show, and before he knows it he's enchanted by young, beautiful Marlena, the star performer of the circus. The feeling is mutual, but Marlena's psychotic, brutal alcoholic of a husband stands in the way of their perfect love affair.
Sara Gruen writes so compellingly and convincingly that I was transported to the ringside, could almost smell the sawdust in the air and hear that familiar tune, 'Entry of the Gladiators' by Julius Fucik. You probably won't recognize the title or the composer – I didn't; I had to look them up – but you would certainly know the tune. I had this melody playing in my head all the way through the book. I have never read anything that conjured up so many images, sounds, scents. It is a remarkable piece of writing.
One more thing that should be mentioned about this book is the painstaking depth of research that I know must have gone into writing it. From the period colloquialisms to the technical aspects of the day to day operation of a circus, from putting up a tent to what the band plays when everything has gone pear-shaped, the research is impeccable. You REALLY believe it was written by a ninety (or ninety three,) year old man who spent his life in the circus.
In closing, this book defies classification and I will not put my own label on it – to do this would be to do it a disservice and may put some people off reading it. The simplest way I can put it is that this book is for everybody and anybody who just loves to read exceptionally good writing. Period.
View all my reviews