Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Review Friday - Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen #bookreview #waterforelephants

Book Review for: Water for Elephants
Written by Sara Gruen
ISBN: 978-1-56512-499-8
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Avail as: ebook & print
5 Stars

Gruen pens an all-encompassing story of intrigue, heartbreak, and hope with "Water for Elephants." It's 1931 and Jacob Jankowski is preparing to take his final exams in veterinary science when he receives the shock of his life – his parents were killed in a traffic accident. With no home to go to, he travels the rails until he hops onto a circus train.

Camel Joe takes Jacob under his wing and ensures the young man gets a job. Jacob soon becomes the vet for the animals, but it's his interactions with August, Uncle Al, and Marlena that challenge his convictions. When Rose the elephant joins the circus, Jacob is put to the test. Will he follow his heart and stand up for his beliefs or walk away?

Gruen's writing is easy to read. She's done her research and it shows. I especially liked how she used pictures to frame each chapter. The storyline is interesting. Jacob is coming-of-age and has to make decisions that aren't easy. The story alternates between old Jacob and young Jacob, and while not linear, Gruen pulls on the reader's heartstrings with the challenges old Jacob faces.  When a modern circus comes to the assisted living facility, old Jacob feels the tug of circus life, bringing the story full circle.

For me, the best part was going on the emotional journey with the characters. They are very real with strengths and weaknesses that touch the reader's emotional core. The supporting cast is just as endearing.

The book's plot is original and interesting. The setting is American circus life in 1931 and Gruen does a wonderful job making the reader believe the authenticity of the setting.

The novel is mainstream fiction and while I was a bit hesitant to initially read a story about a circus, Gruen quickly sold me on the novel. I couldn't put the book down. "Water for Elephants" will resonate with readers long after they've finished it. I highly recommend this book. 


  1. I had seen the movie and wanted to read the book. It surprised me how much I loved it. But then, the books are usually better than the movies, right? I should have known that!!!

  2. Books usually are better than movies. I think Water for Elephants the book was better than the movie, but I thought the movie captured the ambience of the setting well.

    Now, some movies are just as good as the books. The Harry Potter movies were well done. Also, The Hunger Games movie was just as good as the book.

    I love the Percy Jackson books, but I was disappointed with The Lightning Thief movie. I thought Sea of Monsters was a much better movie than The Lightning Thief. I thought the girl who played Clarisse in the movie did great. I'd love to see The Titan's Curse as a movie but time will tell.