water for elephants

Title :: Water for Elephants
Author :: Sara Gruen
Completed :: Mar 12 2008
Challenges :: 888 Challenge
Rating :: 4/5

A dazzling view behind the curtain of the glamorous big top. Life in the circus as I'm sure you can well imagine was as topsy-turvy as bears juggling and elephants dancing. I like how the author really captured the feeling of the circus as its own little world with its own rules and its own segregation. The sheer possibility of living on a train, pulling into a city and popping up tents and putting on a "world class" act is fascinating. I wonder if the idea of it just sounds romantic and adventurous or if for some it actually was. I'm sure for many it was hell, especially if you lived in the lowest rung of circus life, as a working man.

Most of the story takes place during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The protagonist, Jacob Jankowski is a veterinarian in training, a student at Cornell University preparing to take his final exams and to begin his life working with his father, but tragedy strikes and Jacob's life changes. Unable to face his exams Jacob runs away and jumps a train which he soon realizes belongs to the traveling circus, The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. After meeting a few of the working class he soon befriends a man named Camel who helps him get a job. Eventually Jacob catches the eye of Uncle Al, the owner and is brought to his car. When Uncle Al discovers that Jacob is an 'almost' veterinarian he immediately hires him on as the circus vet. Jacob begins working under the head trainer, August a man who oozes cruelty and will anger you more than once.

It's not long before Jacob is faced with the brutalities and hierarchy of circus life. But this is not just a story about the circus, there is the unavoidable love triangle when Jacob becomes increasingly fascinated with Marlena, the star of the show, a beautiful woman with a heart for animals only there's one problem, she's married to August. When I heard that the love story was of a Romeo and Juliet nature I thought it was going to be cheesy but it somehow manages to highlight the overall theme of managing morals in this type of life as well as acting on one's emotions.

I thought the story was beautiful and I liked how the author included archived photos of circus life in the 1930s. The author's note in the back was interesting. How horrific that in NYC during the time there was a public execution of an elephant that killed his handler after having a cigarette put inside its mouth. But this wasn't just any old execution, Thomas Edison was invited out to give a demonstration of the powers of electricity by electrocuting the poor elephant. I was shocked! (no pun intended)

Other Thoughts ::
: the 3 r's: reading, 'riting and randomness
: reading adventures
: you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

. listening . throw me away . korn . korn unplugged .


posted by Ashleigh @ 11:14,


At 28 March 2008 at 11:41, Blogger DAWN said...

ah, I loved this book, too.

At 28 March 2008 at 13:32, Blogger Danielle said...

I've looked at this book so many times, but can never decide whether to read it or not, but it does sound good. A long time ago I read a book by a British woman who traveled with a circus (it might have been in Mexico) and it was so intriguing. I think her name was Katie Hicks. I wouldn't mind rereading that--it seems like such a foreign existance.

At 4 May 2008 at 19:04, Blogger Florinda said...

Hi, I'm here via Weekly Geeks to share my review link for this book, and I'll add your link to my post.

At 5 May 2008 at 12:59, Blogger Marg said...

I am following in Florinda's footsteps and giving you a link to my review. I have already added your link to my post.



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    ashleigh (ash'lė) n.
    1: egyptologist; currently living in the uk attempting to obtain a phd in egyptology, hoping in the end there will be a job.
    2: literary; reading to escape reality, to improve conversation, for inspiration.
    3: crafter; crocheting and needlework, creating heirlooms, keeping the world warm.
    4: dreamer; head in the clouds, full of fantasies, wishing to be someone else, somewhere else.
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