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Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants

A Novel

Book - 2006
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Over 10,000,000 copies in print worldwide
#1 New York Times Bestseller
A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
A Wall Street Journal Bestseller
A Newsday Favorite Book of 2006
A USA Today Bestseller
A Major Motion Picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz

Jacob Janowski's luck had run out―orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was the Great Depression and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. There he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but brutal animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this group of misfits was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
Publisher: Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books, 2006
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781565124998
1565124995
Characteristics: 335 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Water for elephants

Opinion

From Library Staff

Star-crossed lovers in the circus world circa 1932: Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift; Marlena, a beautiful young star of the equestrian act; and her husband August, a charismatic but twisted animal trainer.


From the critics


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c
cropofmoss
May 11, 2021

This story is not for the faint of heart. It is a gorgeous and heartbreaking romance with twists and turns but it is also a story with a dark, twisted undertone. As Jacob becomes more and more involved with the circus, he begins to understand something isn't quite right with the people and how the show is run. It keeps you on your seat and I found it a very thought-provoking and unusual read. One thing I didn't quite enjoy was the ending of this story. It felt a little bit rushed and it wasn't quite what I wanted to happen. You are reading about these characters and following their story and then all of a sudden it's over and you hear all about what happened to them. However, I don't believe this really took too much away from the book. I still think the story is full of grit, tragedy, and a dynamic underdog character, in my opinion, a must-read.

l
LucasHill
Apr 26, 2021

An unmotivated love story stapled on to a larger narrative that just didn't make much sense, partially due to the fact that the supporting characters just didn't distinguish themselves from each other too often. Not for book snobs like me.

j
Johnzz1
Apr 18, 2021

An especially interesting, well-written, well-thought-out book. And, one that we definitely want to read the post scriptum discussion in the Kindle version that answers the question of how the author came to have such intimate knowledge of insider circus info, slang, jargon, attitudes, happenings during the harsh times of railroad circuses during the Great Depression--she had been planning to write an altogether different book but something caught her interest and instead she spent 3 years researching museums and records of that epic and, uh, depressing era-- and also begs the question of who actually crushed the skull of the bad guy, Reese Witherspoon? Or the elephant? (A 90-or-93-year-old's dubious memory? Or the opposite?)

a
Anita_Dickey
Jan 05, 2021

I read this book to fulfil the goal read a book with a character in their 20's. It is also on Listopia's 300 books everyone should read once challenge. i enjoyed it. i would like to see the movie someday. it ended in a surprising way and was quite entertaining.

k
karebear111
Nov 11, 2020

Not the typical kind of novel I’m drawn to, but I really enjoyed it.

h
happycanuck
Jul 23, 2020

Well written, heartwarming and unusual .

ChristchurchLib Feb 13, 2020

A gritty story about a drifter who finds himself part of a travelling circus, there he meets a beautiful woman whom is already spoken for and of course they fall in love! If you like adventurous stories about animals, glittering circus delights and historical settings you may enjoy Water for Elephants.

c
colormeinsunlight
Dec 04, 2019

One-dimensional storytelling. Airport fare.

n
Newmommy09
Oct 13, 2019

Re-read this on my Kindle. Still a vivid, great story with rich, vivid prose. The character development I adore as well as the story-telling, the animals and the love story. Just a wonderful read.

j
jecoons
Jul 29, 2019

This book gives an excellent view for people who have or haven't had to "manage" what life throws their way. I enjoyed it and am glad I didn't live (survive) in the depression era 1930's USA as a human or elephant.

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Age

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p
pitchula
Oct 19, 2015

pitchula thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 14 and 99

r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

rachelhoback thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 13 and 56

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friendlyfaceca
Sep 19, 2012

friendlyfaceca thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Michelle M. Veilleux thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

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Keep_On_Rockin
May 29, 2012

Keep_On_Rockin thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

violet_ant_88 May 13, 2012

violet_ant_88 thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

c
corrabelle
Mar 04, 2012

corrabelle thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Blue_Eagle_181 Feb 13, 2012

Blue_Eagle_181 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

b
b_xy_p
Jan 06, 2012

b_xy_p thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Black_Cheetah_38 Nov 25, 2011

Black_Cheetah_38 thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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Notices

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r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

Coarse Language: profanity is largely used

r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

Sexual Content: alot of sexual content,

r
rachelhoback
Jun 03, 2013

Violence: fighting, blood, nothing too bad but may be frightening to young people

i
imaginethat
Feb 10, 2011

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

i
imaginethat
Feb 10, 2011

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

m
MOM_MY11206
Feb 01, 2011

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

m
MOM_MY11206
Feb 01, 2011

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

m
MOM_MY11206
Feb 01, 2011

Violence: This title contains Violence.

Quotes

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d
devreads
Jul 22, 2019

"Sometimes I think that if I had to choose between an ear of corn or making love to a woman, I'd choose the corn."

busyinbillspants Jun 05, 2012

"I want her to melt into me, like butter on toast. I want to absorb her and walk around for the rest of my days with her encased in my skin. I lie motionless, savoring the feeling of her body against mine. I'm afraid to breathe in case I break the spell.”

l
LazyNeko
Aug 20, 2011

I hate him. I hate him for being so brutal. I hate that I'm beholden to him. I hate that I'm in love with his wife and something damned close to that with the elephant. And most of all, I hate that I've let them both down.

Summary

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b
b_xy_p
Jan 06, 2012

Jacob Jankowski is just a normal, young adult that is studying at college to become a vet. However, everything changes when both his parents died. Homeless and without any money, Jacob takes his chances by jumping onto a passing train. There he is welcomed as a vet for the animals. As the days go on, he's become great friends with August, a circus boss, and his wife Marlena, a performer. Slowly Jacob begins to fall in love with Marlena and hate August for his cruelty to the animals and other men. Meanwhile, the circus buys an elephant named Rosie, who at first seemed stupid and worthless, was soon a main act of the show, thanks to Jacob. Then August accuses Jacob and Marlena of having an affair behind his back, which made him go into a madmen state, beating up Jacob and hitting his own wife. Suffering enough of the abuse, Marlena divorces him and Jacob was there immediately to support her. As Uncle Al (overall circus manager) realizes that August is becoming difficult to work with due to his hate for himself because of what he did to Marlena and Jacob, he forces Jacob to try to get Marlena and August back together. However, Jacob doesn’t follow the command, still having affairs with Marlena, but when his two close friends gets 'redlighted', he realizes that Uncle Al was going after him. Luckily enough, a terrible stampede happened on the next circus act, leaving many of the workers homeless, and August and Uncle Al dead. Jacob immediately marries Marlena and decide to join Ringling's circus, where they had their first child. As the story goes, another story unfolding as well - the one with Jacob as ninety or ninety three (it's a debate throughout the book) reflecting on what happened through his life in the circus and his life now, in a nursing home with others of his own age or younger. In the end, even though no one came to visit Jacob and take him to the circus near the senior’s home, Jacob was determined and arrived at the circus on his own. There, he meets the manager of the circus who listens to his story and offers him a job in the circus as a ticket holder, and never does Jacob go back to the nursing home.

c
Carolyne
Sep 05, 2008

After accidentally running away with the circus, a young man finds danger, happiness, love, friendship and his future among the animals.

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