Water for Elephants

October 31, 2007
By
Water for Elephants Book Review

Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants is a richly crafted novel about the love, loyalty, and hardship of Jacob Jankowski, a Cornell-educated veterinary student, who finds himself working for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth after an unexpected tragedy turns his life upside down. During his three month employment, he befriends a dwarf named Walter and falls in love with Marlena L'Arche, one of the circus' star performers. Their romance is complicated by Marlena's abusive husband, August. The intense emotional journey that runs throughout the story is nothing compared to the twist that Gruen so skillfully delivers at the novel's end.

Characterization is, without a doubt, Sara Gruen's forté. The characters are immensely real and evoke passionate feelings. As the story unravels, Jacob's and Marlena's fears, dreams, and lives quickly become yours. By the middle, you find yourself gasping in outrage and pity. One particularly enjoyable aspect of this book is the importance of animals. Rosie, the elephant, is almost as human as the people in the novel. Gruen's portrayal of her characters, both animal and human, is nothing short of outstanding.

Gruen writes with simple but beautiful style. Her descriptions of circus are rich with detail, and the quality of research on this area of Depression-era America is evident in every scene. From the squalid images of the roustabouts' quarters to the glamour of the Big Top, Gruen paints a world so real that you are immersed from the very beginning.

Water for Elephants is the perfect read for everyone who likes a good love story. Those who enjoy reading about relationships would feel right at home as well.





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