Friday, February 6, 2009

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I remember this was on my cousin's list over at Good Reads. Hey LL! love you!

This book is the story of a circus worker set at the beginning of The Great Depression (a timely read). It's also a love story, in more than one way.

Narrated in hindsight through the memories of who is now a 90 - or 93 - year-old nursing home resident, younger Jacob was an ivy-league college student who, just before taking his final exams to become a veterinarian and join his father's practice back home, suffers the tragic automobile accident death of both his parents. He returns to school, but is unable to take his exams. He runs away, hops a midnight train. In the light of day, the train turns out to be a traveling circus. With few other options (none), Jacob joins the show as a care-giver to the circus's menagerie of animals. He quickly learns just how - under Uncle Al's direction - sinister a circus can be, for animals and humans alike. Jacob, a virgin, also meets the object of his passionate affection, a woman who just happens to be married to the man in charge of all the animals at the circus. Tragedy is met with courage, leading to a triumphant ending, for the young, and now older Jacob alike.

Maybe simply because I know that this is what is happening, but the voice of the 90 - or 93 - year-old Jacob doesn't sound authentic (though I admit I'm not sure what that would sound like). It sounds more like the voice of a relatively young, and female, author imagining the voice of an elderly man, though truthfully, I was fully engaged in the believable voice of the younger Jacob. This is my only complaint.

The novel, including the descriptions of the circus, the movements of the characters, and the dialogue could easily be read as a movie script - the whole thing is done in a way that you can see it happening on a big screen - the story has that kind of feel. I imagine Renee Zellweger as Jacob's love interest, perhaps because I recall her role in Chicago, so know that she could pull off a woman living in this time period, that part of the last century.

This is a very good novel and I wish I had read it sooner. - 4 stars


Amanda said...

I'm divided on whether or not I want to read this one. I have it on my to-read list at Goodreads, too, but hear very conflicting reviews about it. People seem to love it or hate it. I figure for now it'll stay on my list until I run out of other things I want to read more.

Trixie said...

I have this on my shelf to read this year. Did you know she wrote this novel during National Novel Writing Month 2007?! I find it so interesting to read a completed novel written in that kind of time frame.

Amanda said...

Really? Wow, that's really cool! I know I'd never be able to write a whole novel in a month. That's far beyond my limit.