Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Book Reviews

Water for Elephants

5 Stars

The book begins with ninety-year-old Jacob remembering a very intense and disturbing event from his time with the circus that will leave you wanting to find out how it got to that point. The chapters then alternate between old Jacob and his very depressed state at the Assisted Living Facility and him remembering his journey with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

The circumstances on how he came to join the circus as the show Veterinarian were very sad. He went from being a young man about to graduate from Cornell, his whole future ahead of him and the possibility of FINALLY losing his virginity, to having no one and nowhere to go. Once on the show, he meets August, the show’s equestrian director and superintendent of animals. August is one very questionable character. He can be the most charming man around and moments later he can turn into the most terrifying creature you’ve ever encountered.

He also meets Marlena, August’s wife, and falls in love with her on the spot. At a later point, the show acquires an elephant named Rosie who is thought to be stupid because she won’t learn to do anything the trainers try to make her do. Rosie plays a huge part in this story, and she gave me the biggest surprise in this book. This story also takes you on an eye-opening journey through the sad conditions circus employees and animals were under in 1931.

Water for Elephants was a completely different read for me. It was Adult, and it was realistic, and I loved it. I was a little skeptical about the circus theme. Can’t say I’ve ever been curious enough about its workings to read a book revolving around one, but I am so glad I did because it was sooo much more than that! It made me laugh, cry and gasp in astonishment sometimes. It was a huge plus knowing this will be a movie (coming out in April) starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon as the main characters. I just pictured both of them the whole time! :D

Book Info

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Published by Algonquin Books
Pub Date: March 1st 2011
Pages: 350
Format: Paperback | Source: Purchased
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance
Buy the book! | Goodreads

As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie.

It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.


Jess @ Gone with the Words

4 Responses to “Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen”

  1. Avatar

    Roz Whyler

    I love love LOVED this book! I actually get to read it again for my LIT class, how awesome?! I'm really excited about the movie! I keep seeing trailers everywhere and I'm starting to get antsy! Looks AMAZING!Happy Reading from The Book Bell!Blakeley :-)

  2. Avatar

    Leticia (@osoordinary)

    I enjoyed this book. I felt the same way about not being interested enough in the circus life, but it was very realistic. It was so well written. Completely agree about August! Talk about flipping a switch! I liked the book more than the movie, but overall the movie followed the book very well. Did you like the movie?

  3. Avatar


    I resisted reading this book because of the circus theme but I was so glad I did when I finally caved and read it. I loved it! LOVED it!

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