Sunday, May 20, 2012

Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Water For Elephants is a love story set in a depression era circus run by a brutal man (Uncle Al) and his equally brutal managerie boss (August). It is full of action, intrigue, lies, and deception. This portion of the book starts fast and keeps on going.

The circus story is written as a reflection on the life of the main character who is 90 (or 93) and living in an assisted living facility. The plot keeps moving back and forth between young Jacob in the twentieth century and old Jacob in the twenty-first century. The scenes in the home are as sensitive as the rest of the novel is intense. The format reminded me of The Notebook. Jacob is as much in love with the woman he once knew as Noah was in Spark's book, but in this case Marlena has died instead of suffering from Alzheimer’s and Jacob is alone.

I loved the friendships that developed in this story, both the ones between people and the ones between animals and people. Jacob was self-centered when it came to the woman he loved, a fact that ultimately cost him his two best friends. But that's how love works and it's what gives the novel authenticity. He wasn't as brave as he should have been when it came to his relationship with Rosie, the elephant, but ultimately he took care of her.

Sometimes Uncle Al wouldn't pay his workers, but they stayed with him because the depression had left them penniless. I was left with a good picture of life in a traveling circus and with life during the depression. But it was the love story that kept me turning the pages and that's timeless.

August, Marlena's husband, died during an act of violence that seemed justified. He was a character I had come to hate during my reading. I'm sure most of the other readers did as well, at least the animal lovers.

It has been more than a year since I saw the film, but I believe it was consistent with the book in most places. The differences seemed small to me. For example, Marlena was supposed to be dark haired in the print version, but I kept picturing her as the blonde Reese Witherspoon.

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