Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: Water for Elephants

If you haven't heard of this book by now, you clearly live on the (non) planet Pluto. I heard about the book a few years ago, but forgot about it until a couple months ago when I sought out my facebook friends for book suggestions. I think 5 different people suggested it and said it was amazing, wonderful, best book ever, blah blah blah. With such accolades, and my borderline obsession with elephants, I knew I needed to add it to my list, especially since there is now a movie version with Reese Witherspoon and 98% of the time, I refuse to see a movie before I read the book.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen alternates between the Depression era of 1931 and 2001. In 1931, Jacob Jankowski is in the final weeks of veterinary school at Cornell when tragedy strikes and he runs away from life as he knows it. Wandering around the railroad tracks, he hops a train that ends up changing his life. The train is carrying equipment for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth-- a circus. He is immersed in the culture and lives to recount an eventful, sometimes harrowing, time in his life 70 years later.

I know that's a really vague summary, but if you pick up the book, you'll notice that no where is there a synopsis of what the book is about. I literally had no clue what I was going to be reading about and now, after having read the book, I know why. Literally every detail from beginning to end is linked to another detail-- sharing one would undoubtedly ruin an event later in the book. It's best to go into it knowing as little as possible so that it is the page turner it is meant to be.

And the book is just that: a real page turner. I read half of it today alone, the other half split up into two days. For one, I'm a real sucker for anything historically based between 1920 and 1970 and am a very visual reader, so while reading, I was acting it out in my mind. And like watching a movie for the first time, I had to know what happened in the end. I also found my self entranced with learning about circus life-- something I consider to be a major part of 20th Century America. Gruen also splits it up into young Jacob and old, nursing home Jacob. I liked young Jacob's "scenes" better, but was more moved by the "scenes" with old Jacob.

Since people hyped it up so much, I had really high expectations. I definitely thought it was a good book, incredibly well written, and very well researched, but I didn't close it thinking, "OH MY GOSH! THAT WAS THE BEST BOOK EVAHHHHHH." I'm glad I read it, and it certainly was fascinating, but I've been more impacted by other books.

Overall: I'd recommend it, and am glad I read it, but don't fully expect to walk away with some mind-blowing experience.

*image from hubpages.com via google images*

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denise said...

I enjoyed that book too - but have zero desire to see the movie.

Murdock's mama said...

Thanks for this review...I've been wondering! :)

Have a great weekend!

Heather said...

I haven't read it just because I haven't really known what it is about. The way you explained it now makes me want to read it. Maybe I will make it my stress reliever for nursing school.

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