Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2006
Paperback 331 Pages
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.
Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
Recommended To: Anyone who is interested in how circuses were back in the 1930's, this book is no encyclopedia but for a fiction story really painted an amazing picture in my head of what circuses were like. If you are looking for a story with a really great plot line with some twists along the way then this is your book!
Content One Should Know: I thought to include this because this is an adult book and therefore adult themes. The first thing I will say is that this book is a darker book, not super dark and depressing but it does have its' moments. The second thing is, like I said, adult book equals adult themes. (More details towards the end of the review)
What can I possibly say about Water For Elephants? I mean there seemed to be a little bit of a Water For Elephants craze once the movie trailer came out, now I am not talking about a craze like the Twilight books but still, a lot of people wanted to see the movie, the bookstores started to "showcase" the books, and a movie-tie-in version of the book came out. I am proud to say that I had the opportunity to get that version but passed and am very happy with my choice. So as I was saying, the craze. It was not as huge as I thought it might be, at least not by me, but I knew that I still had to go and read the book before I saw the movie. So I will start from the beginning, I had actually heard from National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo as many call it. Link here - http://www.nanowrimo.org/. So Ms. Gruen wrote this book for one of her nanowrimo seasons and the first year I tried it out I heard about the book. At the time I had only just begun to know the world of YA, I did not even know that YA existed at that point. So at that point I was not exactly looking for an adult novel to read. So over the years this book kept popping up in places, woman who I babysat for, the bookstore (duh), an older teacher at my school, she is the sweetest lady I have ever met, but anyway I never took the hint to actually pick it up and read it. Finally the I found out the movie was coming out, insert big craze, or lack there of, here, and I wanted to see the movie so I knew at some point I would have to pick up the book. As it turns out I made a few plans to see the movie with my friends, a few times, but it never worked out. So finally I was at the bookstore getting a book for my little sisters birthday and, while I never really got the hint from the aligning stars to just pick up the dang thing, I picked it up.
This book is honestly one of the best books I have read this year! (Although I have only read about 8 so you can interpret what that means to you) Anyway I really enjoyed this book! I loved the whole setting of the circus, and honestly I think that's what really made the book for me, but more on that later. The setting was perfect and Gruen really took me into that time with this book, I was just pulled in and it all felt so real to me. I felt like I had an insiders look in the circus, one with glamour, scandals, and dark secrets. I can easily tell you that this is not anything like to the circuses I have been to. I was so drawn in by the circus aspect, but that is not enough for a book to be written on, and I got so much more. The characters blew my mind. They were so glamorous and rugged but at the same time they all had their secrets and deceptiveness. The antagonists were really my guilty pleasure, I love a good antagonists and these characters were downright evil and cruel, yet at the same time they could be charming and collected. They were really awesome bad guys that had motive, not like some characters that just seem to do things for the heck of it. They were genuinely bad guys with motives and were very entertaining to read about, as were all the characters but damn, can Gruen write a bad guy.
On to some other parts of the book, before you all think I am crazy for loving the bad guys. I really liked Jacob and Marlena as well, I feel that even though Jacob is a guy, he was still easy to relate to. I did not like him as much when I was reading those chapters with him in the nursing home. He was crabby all the time, but I guess in his situation I would feel the same. Marlena, she was a glamour girl that's for sure, but with a good heart and while she was not always the most bright person I really liked her. The only thing I did not like about Jacob and Marlena's relationship was when Jacob first said he loved her, I stopped reading for a bit to think about this. Yes he has said that he likes her, they have talked and had some good conversations, he thinks she's beautiful. Yes all that is true, but I am not seeing anything that does not point to just friendship. I mean, do all those things equal love? I do not think so and, therefore, was really surprised when he said that, there just needed to be something a little more, for me, to feel the love. Overall the circus really was amazing and definitely made up for these small flaws in the books. I loved how Guren described all the acts and animals and how the reader can actually experience the acts, and experience more than one. However, this book is dark so not for anyone who wants a light read. There is also a lot of sexual references and content. The book goes just as close as you can to having an....ahm....scene without doing just that. So not for the faint hearted in that area either. It was something I was not expecting at all but I lived to tell you all about it! And I was actually fine with it. It was not a huge deal to me but I know for some people it might be so I thought I would give a fair warning. But none of this should lead you not to read this book. I loved picking up this book and reading it and will definitely re-read it again many times!
Now a quick movie review!
So if you spent a good amount of time reading my review you will know that I love this book! I have to say that I am glad that something made my plans with friends to see the movie not work out so I had to read the book. So before you see the movie READ THE BOOK! I cannot stress this enough. The movie was great but there were some differences that I did not like as much. The movie is great though and I would definitely recommend going to see it. The acting was amazing! I loved Reese Witherspoon and Christopher Waltz, who played Marlena and August did an AMAZING JOB! Seriously amazing! Reese did such an amazing job bringing Marlena to life and she even was so amazing as to bring even more to Marlena than in the book! Her emotions and acting were so sincere and diverse, and I thought she was fabulous. As for Mr. Waltz, it was probably a hard part to play but he was also amazing. He was the perfect antagonist portraying August perfectly! They both did such a great job and I already love Reese and now I will be looking for more from Christopher Waltz. As amazing as they were I wish I could say the same for Rob Pattinson, and I have nothing against him so don't hate me, but it seemed like he had two expressions/ sides to him. There was the serious side and then the smiling/laughing/giggling side. And really, those were the only two sides of his character I really saw. It wasn't terrible but I remember saying to my friend "So are we only going to see Rob giggling like a young preteen guy or as serious as a rock?". I wanted a little more variety from him. I wanted more Jacob. Like I said, Rob was not terrible or even bad, just limited.
So now I need to say what I did not like as much. The first thing was there are two antagonists right, one being the owner of the circus, Uncle Al, and the other being the animal director, August. Well in the movie there is no Uncle Al and I did not like it. They were decisions and things that Uncle Al did that added to the story and August's character. Things that brought August and Jacob together that lead to things that were in the book. That was confusing, basically I wish that they would have had someone as Uncle Al, he's not even in the book that much but an important part. So August was left to be the bad guy alone and it did not feel as authentic to me. And lastly, as we all know when books are made into movies, all the scenes in the book cannot be in the movie. They actually did a very good job with that but they didn't have the scenes in a consecutive order. Now you have to understand that I literally just finished the book the day before I saw the movie so it was all fresh in my mind and maybe that is why I'm being a little picky but I just did not like the scenes being out of order. It did bother me a bit. But anyway the movie was still amazing! But READ THE BOOK FIRST!!! You will appreciate it so much more and I promise the movie will still be really good!