Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lions, and Tigers, and Circus Bears

Water for Elephants

Written by: Sara Gruen

Released: April 6, 20 by Harper Perennial

Summary: An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.

This book is absolutely breathtaking and I couldn’t put it down unless I was forced to. I started reading it sitting in the airport where out flight was delayed for over an hour and while reading it I was so engrossed that I didn’t even notice the incredibly uncomfortable chair that I was sitting in. I finished reading it while driving from Orlando to Panama City Beach (I was in the backseat and not actually driving myself). This book is just so riveting and gorgeous that I needed to know how it ended and I didn’t even jump ahead to read the end before I was really done.

I’ll admit that even though I bought this book a few years ago I always seemed to pass it over because I didn’t feel as though it would be any good. I don’t know why I had that notion, but there it was. But then I found out that they were making this into a movie (I really want to see it) and after watching the previews and seeing some stills, I had to read the book before I saw it. So I figured that it would be a fantastic holiday read and I was so not disappointed.

This novel alternated between Jacob as an elderly man and Jacob as a young man fresh out of Cornell. I was a little worried how the story would play out with alternating viewpoints like that. If anything, though, it just added this extra layer to the story and made you really see the type of man that Jacob is.

The beginning starts out at the end – if that makes sense – and it makes you think one thing until it’s told again. I don’t want to spoil it, though, so keep an open mind to the possibilities. As the story progresses, you can’t help but wonder what all is going to happen and who Jacob’s wife will be since as an older man he makes reference to her though not by name. And the end is full of action and has you on the edge of your seat.

This is going to be one of those books that I’ll read again and again and tell everyone about when they’re looking for a book to read. One thing, though, is that this isn’t exactly a book for all ages. There are several graphic scenes of either a sexual or physical nature and because of that this really isn’t a book that younger readers should enjoy until they’re at the point where they can handle the material. However, if you can cope with that, pick up this book if you haven’t already because it’s really amazing. I give it a 10/10.

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