Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants

A Novel

Book - 2006
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"Jacob Jankowski, a young man suddenly adrift at the height of the Depression, enters the world of a second-rate circus struggling to survive through one-night stands in town after town. Working in the circus menagerie, Jacob meets Marlena, the beautiful star of the equestrian act, and her husband, August, a charismatic but cruel animal trainer. He also comes to know Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable—until Jacob finds a way to reach her. Water for Elephants is a dark and beautiful tale of life, not just among the colourful characters of the circus, but also during the lean years of the Great Depression. Sara Gruen writes with humour and humanity, warmth and whimsy, depicting a world where even love was a luxury few could afford."--HarperCollins.ca
Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins Canada, c2006
Edition: 1st Canadian ed
Branch Call Number: FICTION GRU
Characteristics: 335 p. ; 24 cm

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n
Newmommy09
Oct 13, 2019

Re-read this on my Kindle. Still a vivid, great story with rich, vivid prose. The character development I adore as well as the story-telling, the animals and the love story. Just a wonderful read.

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good_stuff_4U
Sep 26, 2019

This book's relevance was enhanced for me because I remember hearing senior folks in my life talk about when the circus came to their small towns. Times were not good for people back then. It is right up there with my favorites. If you only saw the movie, suggest you read it.

j
jecoons
Jul 29, 2019

This book gives an excellent view for people who have or haven't had to "manage" what life throws their way. I enjoyed it and am glad I didn't live (survive) in the depression era 1930's USA as a human or elephant.

How could you possibly resist a story of an orphan, a travelling circus, love, elephants, and gritty drama? It was a great read. Delightful and heart-warming, if you asked me for just two words to describe it. Set in 1932, the characters and the storytelling of their adventures is quite charming. (submitted by JB)

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jcbraacx
Aug 04, 2018

This story is beautifully written about an elderly man in his 90's living in a care home. It portrays how Jacob, the 92 yr old feels being all alone in this world after his parents died during the Depression years . His vivid imagination takes him to the days of being a circus vet and jumps on a moving train. He meets a group of rough looking guys who decide to let him stay on the train and finds out it is a circus train . Jacob ends up meeting the circus trainer and his wife and later falls in love with her.

I also loved the transition to his real life and how the care aids really looked after him despite his negative attitude. Brilliant!

c
cdbeaubien
Apr 09, 2018

June 2016
Jacob is a 90 or 93 years old man who is in a nursing home. A circus sets up close to the home, and Jacob thinks about his life as a vet in a circus, where her met his wife. My favorite scenes are of him as he is now. Ms. Gruen does an excellent job describing what it might be like to be 90, alone, and losing all you know, even yourself.

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Dvdbaker87
Oct 06, 2017

Couldn't get into the audiobook. The reader's voice was very dry.

ArapahoeKayla Jul 28, 2017

You enter along with the main character Jacob into the mysterious world of this historical circus world as he uses his veterinarian background to hitch a ride aboard. A narration that switches from past to present this story definitely has plenty of suspense, action, a great cast of characters and romance.

ArapahoeTatyana May 25, 2017

23-year-old Jacob Jankowski is preparing for his final exams as a Cornell University veterinary student when he receives the devastating news that his parents died in a car accident. Their home has been mortgaged to pay for his tuition. Orphaned and penniless he jumps a circus train, which belongs to the Benzini Brothers. He meets different people: brutal and kind, abusive and charming. Sara Gruen says that the backbone of her story is connected with Jacob in the Book of genesis. the name is related to the Hebrew word for "heel".
This deeply psychological novel reveals the glamorous and dark world of the famous circus in the time of Depression. The readers can compare the book with a film adaptation.

k
KatG1983
May 16, 2017

A beautifully written story of a particular subculture of people we don't often read about. To me the joy of this book was the depth of the characters, and not entirely the plot (which is at times weak). I think this is the reason the movie version just didn't work as well.

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Age Suitability

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ArapahoeCheryl Dec 22, 2016

ArapahoeCheryl thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

p
pitchula
Oct 19, 2015

pitchula thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 14 and 99

r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

rachelhoback thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 13 and 56

f
friendlyfaceca
Sep 19, 2012

friendlyfaceca thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Michelle M. Veilleux thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

k
Keep_On_Rockin
May 29, 2012

Keep_On_Rockin thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

violet_ant_88 May 13, 2012

violet_ant_88 thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

c
corrabelle
Mar 04, 2012

corrabelle thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Blue_Eagle_181 Feb 13, 2012

Blue_Eagle_181 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

b
b_xy_p
Jan 06, 2012

b_xy_p thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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Notices

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r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

Coarse Language: profanity is largely used

r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

Sexual Content: alot of sexual content,

r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

Violence: fighting, blood, nothing too bad but may be frightening to young people

i
imaginethat
Feb 10, 2011

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

i
imaginethat
Feb 10, 2011

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

m
MOM_MY11206
Feb 01, 2011

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

m
MOM_MY11206
Feb 01, 2011

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

m
MOM_MY11206
Feb 01, 2011

Violence: This title contains Violence.

Summary

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b
b_xy_p
Jan 06, 2012

Jacob Jankowski is just a normal, young adult that is studying at college to become a vet. However, everything changes when both his parents died. Homeless and without any money, Jacob takes his chances by jumping onto a passing train. There he is welcomed as a vet for the animals. As the days go on, he's become great friends with August, a circus boss, and his wife Marlena, a performer. Slowly Jacob begins to fall in love with Marlena and hate August for his cruelty to the animals and other men. Meanwhile, the circus buys an elephant named Rosie, who at first seemed stupid and worthless, was soon a main act of the show, thanks to Jacob. Then August accuses Jacob and Marlena of having an affair behind his back, which made him go into a madmen state, beating up Jacob and hitting his own wife. Suffering enough of the abuse, Marlena divorces him and Jacob was there immediately to support her. As Uncle Al (overall circus manager) realizes that August is becoming difficult to work with due to his hate for himself because of what he did to Marlena and Jacob, he forces Jacob to try to get Marlena and August back together. However, Jacob doesn’t follow the command, still having affairs with Marlena, but when his two close friends gets 'redlighted', he realizes that Uncle Al was going after him. Luckily enough, a terrible stampede happened on the next circus act, leaving many of the workers homeless, and August and Uncle Al dead. Jacob immediately marries Marlena and decide to join Ringling's circus, where they had their first child. As the story goes, another story unfolding as well - the one with Jacob as ninety or ninety three (it's a debate throughout the book) reflecting on what happened through his life in the circus and his life now, in a nursing home with others of his own age or younger. In the end, even though no one came to visit Jacob and take him to the circus near the senior’s home, Jacob was determined and arrived at the circus on his own. There, he meets the manager of the circus who listens to his story and offers him a job in the circus as a ticket holder, and never does Jacob go back to the nursing home.

c
Carolyne
Sep 05, 2008

After accidentally running away with the circus, a young man finds danger, happiness, love, friendship and his future among the animals.

Quotes

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d
devreads
Jul 22, 2019

"Sometimes I think that if I had to choose between an ear of corn or making love to a woman, I'd choose the corn."

busyinbillspants Jun 05, 2012

"I want her to melt into me, like butter on toast. I want to absorb her and walk around for the rest of my days with her encased in my skin. I lie motionless, savoring the feeling of her body against mine. I'm afraid to breathe in case I break the spell.”

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