Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants

Book - 2006
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Over 10,000,000 copies in print worldwide
#1 New York Times Bestseller
A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
A Wall Street Journal Bestseller
A Newsday Favorite Book of 2006
A USA Today Bestseller
A Major Motion Picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz

Jacob Janowski's luck had run out―orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was the Great Depression and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. There he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but brutal animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this group of misfits was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
Publisher: Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books, 2006.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9781565124998
1565124995
9781565125605
9781616200701
Branch Call Number: GRUEN S
Characteristics: 335 p. : ill ; 24 cm.

Opinion

From Library Staff

2011 - Drama

During the Great Depression, Jacob, a penniless and recently-orphaned veterinary school student, parlays his expertise with animals into a job with a second-rate traveling circus. He falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers, but their romance is complicated by... Read More »

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TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 03, 2016

Cameron's Titanic on a circus train. Oddly, it sort of works.


From the critics


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h
happycanuck
Jul 23, 2020

Well written, heartwarming and unusual .

ChristchurchLib Feb 13, 2020

A gritty story about a drifter who finds himself part of a travelling circus, there he meets a beautiful woman whom is already spoken for and of course they fall in love! If you like adventurous stories about animals, glittering circus delights and historical settings you may enjoy Water for Elephants.

c
colormeinsunlight
Dec 04, 2019

One-dimensional storytelling. Airport fare.

n
Newmommy09
Oct 13, 2019

Re-read this on my Kindle. Still a vivid, great story with rich, vivid prose. The character development I adore as well as the story-telling, the animals and the love story. Just a wonderful read.

g
good_stuff_4U
Sep 26, 2019

This book's relevance was enhanced for me because I remember hearing senior folks in my life talk about when the circus came to their small towns. Times were not good for people back then. It is right up there with my favorites. If you only saw the movie, suggest you read it.

j
jecoons
Jul 29, 2019

This book gives an excellent view for people who have or haven't had to "manage" what life throws their way. I enjoyed it and am glad I didn't live (survive) in the depression era 1930's USA as a human or elephant.

How could you possibly resist a story of an orphan, a travelling circus, love, elephants, and gritty drama? It was a great read. Delightful and heart-warming, if you asked me for just two words to describe it. Set in 1932, the characters and the storytelling of their adventures is quite charming. (submitted by JB)

j
jcbraacx
Aug 04, 2018

This story is beautifully written about an elderly man in his 90's living in a care home. It portrays how Jacob, the 92 yr old feels being all alone in this world after his parents died during the Depression years . His vivid imagination takes him to the days of being a circus vet and jumps on a moving train. He meets a group of rough looking guys who decide to let him stay on the train and finds out it is a circus train . Jacob ends up meeting the circus trainer and his wife and later falls in love with her.

I also loved the transition to his real life and how the care aids really looked after him despite his negative attitude. Brilliant!

c
cdbeaubien
Apr 09, 2018

June 2016
Jacob is a 90 or 93 years old man who is in a nursing home. A circus sets up close to the home, and Jacob thinks about his life as a vet in a circus, where her met his wife. My favorite scenes are of him as he is now. Ms. Gruen does an excellent job describing what it might be like to be 90, alone, and losing all you know, even yourself.

d
Dvdbaker87
Oct 06, 2017

Couldn't get into the audiobook. The reader's voice was very dry.

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Age

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pitchula
Oct 19, 2015

pitchula thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 14 and 99

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rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

rachelhoback thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 13 and 56

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friendlyfaceca
Sep 19, 2012

friendlyfaceca thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Michelle M. Veilleux thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

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Keep_On_Rockin
May 29, 2012

Keep_On_Rockin thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

violet_ant_88 May 13, 2012

violet_ant_88 thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

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corrabelle
Mar 04, 2012

corrabelle thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Blue_Eagle_181 Feb 13, 2012

Blue_Eagle_181 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

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b_xy_p
Jan 06, 2012

b_xy_p thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Black_Cheetah_38 Nov 25, 2011

Black_Cheetah_38 thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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Notices

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r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

Coarse Language: profanity is largely used

r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

Sexual Content: alot of sexual content,

r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

Violence: fighting, blood, nothing too bad but may be frightening to young people

i
imaginethat
Feb 10, 2011

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

i
imaginethat
Feb 10, 2011

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

m
MOM_MY11206
Feb 01, 2011

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

m
MOM_MY11206
Feb 01, 2011

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

m
MOM_MY11206
Feb 01, 2011

Violence: This title contains Violence.

Quotes

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d
devreads
Jul 22, 2019

"Sometimes I think that if I had to choose between an ear of corn or making love to a woman, I'd choose the corn."

busyinbillspants Jun 05, 2012

"I want her to melt into me, like butter on toast. I want to absorb her and walk around for the rest of my days with her encased in my skin. I lie motionless, savoring the feeling of her body against mine. I'm afraid to breathe in case I break the spell.”

l
LazyNeko
Aug 20, 2011

I hate him. I hate him for being so brutal. I hate that I'm beholden to him. I hate that I'm in love with his wife and something damned close to that with the elephant. And most of all, I hate that I've let them both down.

Summary

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b
b_xy_p
Jan 06, 2012

Jacob Jankowski is just a normal, young adult that is studying at college to become a vet. However, everything changes when both his parents died. Homeless and without any money, Jacob takes his chances by jumping onto a passing train. There he is welcomed as a vet for the animals. As the days go on, he's become great friends with August, a circus boss, and his wife Marlena, a performer. Slowly Jacob begins to fall in love with Marlena and hate August for his cruelty to the animals and other men. Meanwhile, the circus buys an elephant named Rosie, who at first seemed stupid and worthless, was soon a main act of the show, thanks to Jacob. Then August accuses Jacob and Marlena of having an affair behind his back, which made him go into a madmen state, beating up Jacob and hitting his own wife. Suffering enough of the abuse, Marlena divorces him and Jacob was there immediately to support her. As Uncle Al (overall circus manager) realizes that August is becoming difficult to work with due to his hate for himself because of what he did to Marlena and Jacob, he forces Jacob to try to get Marlena and August back together. However, Jacob doesn’t follow the command, still having affairs with Marlena, but when his two close friends gets 'redlighted', he realizes that Uncle Al was going after him. Luckily enough, a terrible stampede happened on the next circus act, leaving many of the workers homeless, and August and Uncle Al dead. Jacob immediately marries Marlena and decide to join Ringling's circus, where they had their first child. As the story goes, another story unfolding as well - the one with Jacob as ninety or ninety three (it's a debate throughout the book) reflecting on what happened through his life in the circus and his life now, in a nursing home with others of his own age or younger. In the end, even though no one came to visit Jacob and take him to the circus near the senior’s home, Jacob was determined and arrived at the circus on his own. There, he meets the manager of the circus who listens to his story and offers him a job in the circus as a ticket holder, and never does Jacob go back to the nursing home.

c
Carolyne
Sep 05, 2008

After accidentally running away with the circus, a young man finds danger, happiness, love, friendship and his future among the animals.

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