Sunday, February 24, 2013

Water for Elephants

Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Publisher: Algonquin Books, 2006
Pages: 297
Genre: Historical Fiction

As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

Wow! Now that is what I call a great book! I absolutely love this novel. I love the characters, the writing, and the story, everything about it. I even love to hate the villain. I especially love Jacob Jankowski. He is just a really great leading man. He loses everything, lives through one of the toughest times in American history, and still leads an extraordinary life.
This book is set during the Great Depression. Jacob is a young veterinary student who is forced into the circus due to his financial situation. Here he learns all about life and love and yes, elephants. I really enjoyed the style the author chose to use. She wrote it as the memoir of an old man. Jacob Jankowski is waiting for his family to show up so they can visit the circus that has set up directly across the street from his nursing home. While he is waiting, he reminisces on his days in the circus. I think Gruen did a superb job in painting a picture of what life was like during the Depression. Not that I was there, so I guess it’s more that I like the picture she painted of life during the Depression. It’s seedy and for lack of a better word, depressing, but still people found ways to be entertained and persevere. 
Of course, I’m a romantic, so I’m obsessed with the love story in this book. It reeks of forbidden fruit and love conquers all and all of that. There’s betrayal, passion, and an underlying innocence (maybe purity is what I’m looking for) as well. It’s deliciously dichotic.
And then there’s Rosie. Sweet, sweet Rosie. If I ever have an elephant (Which is totally possible and not at all ridiculous!) I want her to be Polish and adorable just like Rosie!!! Yes, yes I’m well aware that there are no elephants in Poland, minus the zoos. But just read the book, and you will understand. No really, read the book. You will not regret it!

Cover: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Individuality: 5/5
The Whole Shebang: 4.4/5