Book Review: Water For Elephants

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

For a number years now I had been debating about whether I would read this book or not. It seemed to be front and center every time I went to a book store, then when the movie was coming out, it’s popularity came back and everyone was raving about it again. But that was the problem for me, I tend to avoid super popular books, especially when they are slated to become a movie, because I find that rarely stand up to the hype. Plus it didn’t help that the trailer for the movie made it look like one of those cheesy girly romance movies that I would hate. So I decided that I would not read the book.

Flash forward a few years later and I found myself in possession of a copy of this book and the debate on whether to read it or not returned. So, I decided I would give it a try, and if I didn’t like it, I would set it aside and forgot that I ever set eyes on it. I had no clue I was in for a treat.

To say I was immediately pulled into the story was an understatement. I surfaced momentarily for dinner and then dove right back in. The next thing you know, I was three quarters done already. I might have even finished it in one sitting had it not been for the fact that it was pushing 3am and I was dead tired. When I woke a few hours later, I went to the book and didn’t do anything else until it was done.

The first paragraph of this book had me smiling. It’s so simple yet spoke volumes. It was as if I was told “I don’t remember how old I am, but sit down and I will tell you one hell of a story” and of course I obliged because who can say no that? And you know what, it was one hell of a story.

While I’m normally not a huge fan of stories written in first person, I felt that it worked perfectly for this book. It really gave us the best look at Jacob’s life, both in the past and present, and put us squarely in the same events. I don’t think I would have enjoyed this one as much if it had have been written in third person. Having the story shift from present day to the past, really helped to convey everything. While the focus is on Jacob’s past, namely the time he worked at the circus, getting to see him as an older gentleman struggling with memories and feeling lost added another layer to the story. In a way, it sort of reminded me of the book Fried Green Tomatoes, in that the story shifts from present to past, to help facilitate the story as a whole.

I really enjoyed the mix of characters in this book. Sure they were pretty much all circus goers, but that doesn’t mean they all are the same. I especially liked Walter. His attitude at the beginning was great, since I tend to love characters like that, but seeing him warm up to Jacob along the way was also nice. I do wish that we could have gotten to learn a bit more about some of the characters, but since this was a story about Jacob’s life, then I’m not too concerned about it.

It was clear that a lot of research went into the novel. Not just about the depression but about circuses during that time as well. The author did a wonderful job of blending fact with fiction to make a solid and highly enjoyable story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. My only regret is that I didn’t read it earlier, but now I am happy to have done so. If you haven’t read this book, I would highly recommend that you make time to do so. I would definitely read more books by this author, as her writing is truly beautiful.

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