Water for Elephants

By Sara Gruen,

Book cover of Water for Elephants

Book description


'Great story, loads of fun; hard to put down.' STEPHEN KING

The Great Depression, 1929.
When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and utterly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of…

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Why read it?

5 authors picked Water for Elephants as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I expected a love story. The intriguing plot and unique characters impressed me. What I didn’t expect was one of the sexiest love scenes I’ve ever read.

Alongside the sexy stuff is the dark story of a Machiavellian circus entrepreneur and those who are subservient to his violent whims. Marlena, the abused wife/damsel in distress with a badass backbone and the young, compassionate vet, Jacob—there’s no better way to set up a white hot coupling.

While nothing in this book is red-hot erotic, there is no erotic experience greater than tacit lust that has gone unaddressed for too long between…

I love the setting of this book.

It takes place during depression amidst a traveling circus. Life within the circus is harsh and must be endured by people and animals alike. The circus acts as the ultimate dysfunctional family in which there are moments of forgiveness and kindness but also cruelty and despotism. 

Water for Elephants is first and foremost a love story being recounted by an old man on the final travels of his life.

From Heidi's list on optimists and animal lovers.

The main character, Jacob Jankowski narrates this story keeping me glued to the pages as he describes the characters that surround him. Gruen artfully uses Jacob in his younger days and his older days to tell the story of the old-time circus. She is able to give multi-dimensions to the other characters through the eyes of the narrator without having to switch over to a third-person point of view. It has been years since I have read this, but I feel like I remember each character's personality as if they too were telling the story. Almost like I was there…

From Robert's list on first person that tell it like it is.

Each time I read Water for Elephants, a novel set in the early twentieth century, I am carried into the strange and amazing life of the American circus. The ribbon of fantasy that weaves its way through Gruen’s novel—the elephant Rosie as a main character—wraps up my heart and pulls me deep into the story. Water for Elephants is an uplifting novel, filled with hope.  

When I browse my bookshelves for recommendations, this one always stands out as one with a memorable story but also for the author’s gorgeous grammar.

In 1932 during the Great Depression, Jacob Jankowski hits a rough patch. Not yet finished with veterinary school, he’s suddenly orphaned and penniless. When he jumps on a train, Jacob is catapulted into a foreign world of misfits and freaks. The traveling circus is filled with beauties, brutal taskmasters, and animals that need his help. In spite of odds conspiring against him, Jacob discovers love in this unlikely time and place. Will he do what…

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