Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I really need to keep on top of my blogging – I’ll read books and then forget to blog about them until several months later.  Oops!  That’s what happens when you’re a fast reader, I guess.  I read this book earlier this summer.  I had heard some rumblings about it since it was on the NYT Bestseller list, but wasn’t really sure what it was about.  Truthfully, I wasn’t sure at first if I would actually like it.

As “Water for Elephants” starts, Jacob Janikowski is an old man in his nineties in a nursing home.  He despises the nursing home and everything about it.  One day, a circus comes into town nearby and all of the other residents’ families come to take them to see the circus… except Jacob’s family.  He begins to reflect on his younger days after another nursing home resident makes a comment about when he used to work with a circus, which Jacob seriously refutes.

Each chapter alternates between Jacob’s current life in the nursing home and his younger life, when he ran away to join the circus.  He was a veterinary student at Cornell, almost ready to graduate, when his parents were killed in a tragic car accident.  Not knowing what to do with himself and not having any money from his family, Jacob takes a chance and joins a circus tour.  They reluctantly accept him into their group after learning of his veterinary background and his ability to work with their animals.  The Benzini Brothers circus has many a shady character, and Jacob has to always watch his back, not wanting to stir up trouble with circus leader, Uncle Al, or the animal trainer, August.  Against his better judgment, Jacob begins to fall in love with Marlena, August’s wife, and the star performer.  Marlena is a gem amongst the rest of the circus employees – she’s beautiful and has a true way with animals, especially Rosie, an elephant that the circus inherits from another circus that they came across on their travels.  This relationship, obviously, puts a target on Jacob’s back and slowly, the circus begins to fall apart.

I enjoyed this book so much more than I thought I would.  The story was not a true story; however, the author did thorough research on circus life during the early part of the century and makes the reader aware of how horrible the conditions were and the way the people and animals were treated.  Many of the events in this book were taken from pieces of other stories that Sara Gruen had read about.  I found the details very fascinating and while some of them weren’t very pleasant, there were others that made me smile – especially the antics of Rosie the elephant.

I also just found out that this book is being made into a movie, potentially set to be released sometime next year.  I personally think that this story would make a fabulous movie.  I’m sure it wouldn’t be able to incorporate all of the details and little stories that were in the book, but it will be really interesting to see how they make the book characters into characters on the big screen.  Robert Pattinson will be playing Jacob (I really can’t stand him, but it’s probably because he’s so weird in Twilight and I think his face looks like a caveman, so I wonder how he’ll turn out) and Reese Witherspoon will be playing Marlena (I think this is a good choice and I can totally picture it).  I don’t really recognize any of the names of the other characters.  I’m really looking forward to seeing it!

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.
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