Book Review Wednesday: Water for Elephants (5 stars)

Posted: October 9, 2014 in Book Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

If I were to describe this book in one word, it would be: beautiful.

This is a pretty book, but steers clear of too much flowery language. It veers between an elderly man in modern times and his recollections of his early twenties as part of a travelling circus in 1930’s depression rife america. I’ve read this kind of set up before, and always worry that one of the narratives will be a lot more boring than the other and make me want to skip. In this book that didn’t happen. It’s true that more happens in the past than the present, but the present still has things going for it, and elderly Jacob is so stubborn and awesome, even more so in some ways than his younger self.

Let’s look at the blurb:

Orphaned, penniless, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight train in the dark, and in that instant, transforms his future.

By morning, he’s landed a job with the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he’s in love.

In an America made colourless by prohibition and the Depression, the circus is a refuge of sequins and sensuality. But behind the glamour lies a darker world, where both animals and men are dispensable. Where falling in love is the most dangerous act of all…

It’s clear from reading the book that Sara Gruen; the author did her research. There are little bits of information from the time and from circuses of the time weaved together in the story. This helps to make the vibrant setting of the circus even more so. The characters are also rich and multi-layered; both humans and animals. Rosie the elephant is as well crafted a character as Walter the dwarf clown, August our charming villain, or Marlena the love interest.

The romance has its sweetness and angst (though I found myself more interested in the bond Jacob forges with Rosie, but I’ve never been much into romance). Marlena is an all right character. She’s difficult to get a read on at first, but as the book goes on the reader and Jacob discovers her strength. One of my favorite moments of hers is when she defies her husband in order to feed some of her food to a starving man.

What I liked most was that the book wasn’t just romance. In fact for most of the book Jacob and Marlena keep things to a professional working relationship with a dabble of friendship. And Jacob has other things to take care of than pining over his attraction for her. He has animals to care for, friends and enemies to watch, and danger to be wary of. There’s enough non romance things going on to keep a person less interested in romance, such as myself, glued to the book.

Definitely recommend this book. For more reviews on this book follow the link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43641.Water_for_Elephants

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