Author: Sara Gruen
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: April 8, 2007
Genre: Historical Fiction
Plot: First, here is the summary of "Water for Elephants" from Amazon - 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.
A New York Times Best Seller - my first impressions were that this book was painfully hard to get into! I started the book a few weeks ago and I couldn't get past the first few chapters. Since I'm jobless right now, I decided to finally sit down and finish the book. I finally got into the book around chapter eight. This book is definitely not a young adult book - but is plainly an adult book due to the sometimes erotic and sexually charged scenes. I really didn't want to read about the woman putting her breast into her mouth and sucking it. Not very tasteful in my opinion.
The book was interesting, since it was written in two perspectives - one from Jacob at age 23 and the other at age 93 and they switched throughout the story. It did help reading that way. Also, the plot seemed original - A veterinary student dropping out before finals as his parents have suddenly died and he has nothing, so he joins the circus. Not something I've read before.
Romantic Element: The romantic relationship between Jacob and Marlena was sweet, though I really did not expect to read all of the details of their love making. (Too much information there.) The reader does not know really until the ending of the story what will happen with the relationship, even though the 93 year old Jacob was married, but it never says to who and I liked that element. I like being able to guess. Though partly, the relationship was a little flat and that bothered me. I had a hard time really believing their love due to that. There's also the abusive relationship between Marlena and her husband, August, which adds another element to the forbidden romance. He was a horrible person, which he was supposed to be and I didn't care for his character.
Overall: The book was pretty good, but I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters. It reminded me of "The Great Gatsby" where you aren't supposed to actually like any of the characters. I think I liked the bitter 93 year old Jacob best since I never really felt much connection to the younger Jacob, even though he's the exact same age as me. I liked the book, but it was a difficult read at times. It just wasn't fantastic. I'm a little squeamish and I didn't really like the details of beating animals and women and lots of sex. I give it a 3/5 stars. Good, but not really fantastic.