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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Water for Elephants

Gruen, Sara. Water for Elephants. Jacob Jankowski is in his 90's and living in a nursing home when a circus begins setting up locally. Hoping to attend the show on Sunday, Jacob begins replaying the events of his youth during the depression: the death of his parents, having to leave before his final exams to become a veterinarian, and ending up jumping a train--which turns out to be the train for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

The story alternates between Jacob's life in the nursing home and his memories of his years with the circus, and both stories, both Jacobs are compelling.

Gruen does an excellent job in evoking the world of a traveling circus in the 1930's. The characters are skillfully drawn, the details and the language well-researched (in fact, the material at the end of the book concerning her research and sources is fascinating), and the suspense involving love, friendships, and murder kept me involved throughout. I don't want to say too much about the plot or give anything away, but it is a captivating story.

I read this very quickly as I found it difficult to put down. I'll be looking for Gruen's previous books!

Fiction. Historical fiction/mystery. 2006. 331 pages + additional material.


  1. I have this book on a stack of books in my dining room (I SO have to clean my house!) One of these days I'll get to it!!

  2. Also, on my TBR list. You and Framed both made it sound so good.

  3. The cover of this one intrigues me. I have a feeling I may have mentioned that before here or somewhere else.

    I've added it to my list anyway as it sounds interesting.

  4. I've had this on my list since it first came out. Now that it's out in paperback I'm hoping to get to it soon.

  5. I am listening to this book on my Ipod - there are 2 actors reading -one an old man (90 or 93) and another for the part of Jacob as a young man during his circus years. I have not yet finished listening but it is a lovely book - I suffer with those poor animals in the circus.

  6. I've just finished this one; it will be the book under discussion on The Written Word starting next week. I liked it for the same reasons you did, and I found Jacob a compelling character, both young and old.