Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Book Review)

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Book Review)Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Published by: Algonquin Books
Genres: General Fiction
Pages: 335
My Rating:
Buy It Now (Affiliate Link): Buy on Amazon

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...

I recently started reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  I’ve had that book since it’s release and the movie for about a year and haven’t read/watched either.  It was time to finally get to it.  I read the book in two days and watched the movie the next night.  The verdict?  I loved the book but hated the movie.  Isn’t it often that way though?  So disappointing!

I used to live in SW Florida just outside of Sarasota which is the home of the famed Ringling Mansion and Museum (yes, Ringling from the Ringling Bros Circus) and I’ve visited there a ton of times.  Water for Elephants referenced Ringling throughout the book so that was a cool connection for me.  My visits to that museum really helped bring this book to life because I could see the circus of that era so vividly.

Water for Elephants is a magical book.

Gruen has this incredible way of alternating back and forth between the magic of the public circus and the dark seedy underbelly of the backstage reality.  While the crowd is watching hilarious clown shows, acrobats, and animal shows behind the scenes employees aren’t being paid, they are being thrown from moving trains, there is ugly and harsh treatment of both employees and animals which was just grotesque.

Then…there was the love story!  Jacob and Marlena were just beautiful in the book.  Two lost souls who found each other on the circus train and who found healing and everlasting love together.  Despite the dark ugliness of the circus they found a beautiful joy in each other.

The movie was a complete disappointment compared to the book.  Honestly, despite liking both Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon I wouldn’t recommend it.  Alone maybe it was ok but once you’ve read the book you realize just how much the movie left out.

I’m so glad I finally got it off my shelf and read it. If you still have it collecting dust on your shelf or sitting untouched on your Kindle, pick it up and start reading it. It’s a wonderful book and a great escape. 

Ashley LaMar
Ashley bounces between Atlanta, GA + Charleston, WV with her husband and two small dogs for life and work. If she’s not writing or blogging, she can usually be found cooking, reading, or watching baseball. Follow her on Twitter @ashleyfromfbl
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