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Water for Elephants

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,207,024 ratings  ·  57,136 reviews
Winner of the 2007 BookBrowse Award for Most Popular Book.

An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus strug
Paperback, 429 pages
Published 2008 by Hodder Paperback (first published May 26th 2006)
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Juonithz I liked the book but mainly for its premise and potential. I didn't really feel the love between the characters because they were so two dimensional.…moreI liked the book but mainly for its premise and potential. I didn't really feel the love between the characters because they were so two dimensional. (less)

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Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooked
I think I expected too much out of this novel and therefore had room only for disappointment. Though I finished the book in its entirety, I wrote a short review on my blog about halfway through, expounding on the aspects of the book that irritated me. I have adapted it herein.

First, the main "heroine," Marlena, is incredibly flat & boring. The narrator/main character, Jacob, is clearly infatuated with her, but I'm not sure why other than she looks good in pink sequins. She's married to her a
Rachel M.
Dec 27, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: romance lovers

I really wanted to like this book. I think my low opinion is partially my fault, because I drove into the story with high expectations due to rave reviews. I need to learn not to do that.

The beginning of this novel was excellent. A Ivy League dropout, who formerly studied to be a vet, runs away and joins the circus. The time period? The Depression and Prohibition America - a historical era of uncertainty and chaos. I was looking for an intriguing tale of a
May 29, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Catriona (LittleBookOwl)
Oh man, this was lovely.
Jun 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-the-best
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Will Byrnes
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ladies and gentlemen. Direct your attention to the performer in print. You will be amazed, dazzled and mystified by the daring feats you are about to witness. Well, that might be overstating a bit. The story does open with drama, though. A circus menagerie has gotten loose and there is mayhem. The narrator, Jacob, sees the ringmaster murdered. We then scoot ahead to the present. Jacob is in his 90s and looks back, revisiting his ghosts. From here, we flip back and forth between Jacob in the pres ...more

I picked up Water for Elephants after seeing the movie. You know, the one with "that Twilight guy" - who for a change was allowed to smile. And to have other facial expressions besides "permanently constipated". The math is simple:

Drum roll: Rosie the elephant works better than Ex-Lax!

But on to the book now. In addition to Jacob Jankowski's "love affair" with Rosie the elephant (and a noticeably less sweet affair with Marlena-the-bland-chick) we get a parallel story of J

RJ McGill
Jul 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Shelves: reviewed
Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants is one of those rare novels, that will be read and re-read, discussed and enjoyed for many years, by old and young alike. Destined to be passed between family and friends and back again, until the tattered, time worn pages resemble the books beloved central character and narrator.Jacob Jankowski, just days from the final exams at Cornell University that would have attached the respectable Dr. of Veterinary medicine forever to his name, had his world forever alter ...more
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now THIS is a Good Book!
When I finished reading Water for Elephants, goose bumps covered my skin. Now this is a good book! Immediately engrossed, I had a hard time putting it down as I read the story of Jacob Jankowski and his reminiscence of days with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth--otherwise known as a train circus in 1930's America.

A talented writer and storyteller, Sara Gruen takes readers on a bumpy and tense train ride through history. This tale defines Americana. Ther
Just to put it out there, I’ll admit straight off the bat that I’m one of the people who enjoyed this book. It was a fast read (which I always appreciate, because I’m perpetually drowning in a list of books TBR) and it was fairly easy to get through. I also didn’t see the end coming until a few pages before it actually happened, which probably added immensely to my enjoyment factor.

I’ve been reading all the criticisms of this book in an attempt to organize my opinions after reading this book. It
April 24, 2008 edition of Coastal View News

The glitz and grit, glam and sham of depression-era circus life limps along in Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” with little aid from her shoddy prose, predictable plot and underdeveloped metaphor. Although the book has a flashy appearance and is easily digested, it offers less nutritional value than promised.

When his parents suddenly and tragically die, Jacob Jankowski quits veterinarian school at Cornell University just before graduation and finds hi
Kat Kennedy
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like the circus. Or People who don't like the circus. Or people who have bolt cutters.
I can count the number of times I've been to the circus on one hand. Actually, realistically, on one finger.

We were taken once by my grandparents when I was about five. First, last and only time. My parents hate the idea of the circus and scorned it with all the pretentious uninterest that would likely scar their children for life, causing them to grow up embittered, solitary and convicted to write scathing, snarky reviews on GoodReads as a form or self expression in order to share their own mis
Ahmad Sharabiani
Water for elephants, 2007, Sara Gruen
Water for Elephants is a historical novel by Sara Gruen, written as part of National Novel Writing Month. Publication date: 26 May 2006 (1st edition). The story is told as a series of memories by Jacob Jankowski, a 93-year-old man who lives in a nursing home. Jacob is told what to eat and what to do.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز پنجم ماه سپتامبر سال 2012 میلادی
عنوان: آب برای فیلها؛ نویسنده: سارا گروئن (گرون)؛ مترجم: پروین آقایی؛ کرج، در دانش بهمن، 1388؛ در 383 ص، م
Kristina Horner
This book was PERFECT and I loved it. I want to read it again and again, and I can't recommend the audio book enough.
Nov 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's truly admirable to place the plot on a moving train and its roving fairgrounds... it's like living in a cotton candy cloud. There were plenty of chances to dash the reader away, to make poetry out of the circus workers' vagrant conditions, to use the animals as characters, not just decor,... to avoid cliche. This novel is written concisely, but with often description so vague the reader just glides over it. Also, the narrator is absolutely unreliable... oftentimes he seems more hero than hu ...more
Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Actual Rating: 1.5 Stars

I went into this book with basically no expectations.

Outside of the preview I saw for the movie starring Robert Pattinson & Reese Witherspoon years ago, I didn't even know what this book was about. Turns out this is a story is set in the 1920's & told from the dual perspectives of Jacob Jankowski when he is 23 & 90 (or maybe 93).

On one hand, the story follows young Jacob right after his parents are both taken from him in a freak car accident. Laden with grief
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars!

It's the 1930's, in the midst of the great depression and prohibition. At 23, Jacob Jankowski is just days away from taking his final exams at Cornell and becoming a veterinarian. He plans to join his fathers practice. Then he gets the devastating news that both his parents were killed in an automobile accident. They were behind on their mortgage and both their house and his fathers practice belong to the bank. There's nothing left for Jacob, no home to go to anymore. In a daze, he walk
Sep 25, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is so terrible it made me physically angry. It's predictable, cliched and unimaginative. The good-hearted poor boy meets the good-hearted beautiful girl, who's involved with the bad-hearted, controlling man. Whatever will happen?

Seriously. Don't buy this book. I know the cover is pretty, and the title is intriguing, and the summary is enticing. It's all razzle-dazzle. Kinda like a circus itself.
Aug 23, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good example of why one should have no expectations when going into a book. I wanted this book to be great. I thought this book was going to be great. A depression era traveling circus and all that entails? Awesome! The author’s voice being likened to Mr. Irving? Awesome! The fact that damn near everyone LOVED it? Promising! The only other circus book I’ve read was GEEK LOVE, and holy shit. Awesome! All of this lead me to believe that I was about to be blown away.

But, it wasn’t aw
Dannii Elle
I can fully see why this book has such a polarizing effect on its readers: the circus setting led me to anticipate this as a fantastical and magical, fast-paced read, akin to The Night Circus. What was actually delivered was a moving and slow-building portrait of life as part of a circus. This was densely descriptive and evocative of the life of Jacob Jankowski, veterinarian for the Benzini Brothers' circus show, but there was little plot to move the story forward.

The novel was split between pas
Jul 21, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cotton candy junkies
I just finished reading "Water for Elephants" out on my deck. Just boo. That's my review. Boo. Not a loud boo, or an emphatic boo, just your average boo. Water for Elephants equals boo.

Why do I give this a boo rating? Mostly for the dialogue. The author tries to explain 1930s carnival vernacular through a green carnie's questions about the world around him. And the questions come out over simplified and make for unrealistic and stilted conversations.

Sara Gruen also tries to intersperse a 90-yea
Jason Koivu
Reading this was like running a marathon on bloody stumps. It took forever and it was painful.

The subject - a vet recalling his days in a failing 1920s circus - would've interested me if the writing had been up to par. It wasn't horrible, just amateurish at times. Also, the dialogue could've been better. If the characters sounded more like they came from the '20s it might've drawn me more into the story, but they sounded like contemporaries who like to use old timey jargon. Also, I can't get do
I wasn’t planning on reading this story, but my co-worker insisted. Since we had so much fun reading and discussing The Help, I decided to borrow the audio book from the library.

Craig enjoyed the story more than I did and gave it four stars, while I gave it just three. We both enjoyed the alternating perspectives, from that of Jacob when he’s in his early 20’s and working for the Benzini Brothers circus to the old Jacob, when he’s 90 (or 93) and living in a nursing home. We loved the large cast
In the beginning of Water For Elephants Jacob Jankowski tells us that he is ninety or ninety-three. One or the other. He's not really sure anymore. His body betrayed him years ago and Jacob now fears that his mind isn’t far behind. Shuffling along miserably behind his walker, he’s living out his final days in the nursing home and hating every minute of it. Just another invisible senior citizen who’s family and the world as a whole has forgotten about.

When the circus comes to town and sets up it
Frankie Lovely
2 stars
Review to come

BR with ~Bellegirl91~

There are things I liked and disliked about this book.
Such a whimsical and fascinating novel. Some of the violence involving circus animals was a little upsetting but overall, I enjoyed reading about Jacob's story. I really liked him. :)
Izetta Autumn
Somehow I feel that I have to defend why I liked this book, even though there's no one saying why I shouldn't have enjoyed it. Here's what I found most touching: the author took an fantastic premise - an orphan running away to the circus, a love triangle, an elephant, and the Great Depression and weaved a tale that doesn't make you say "bullocks," at every page. Gruen outlines use of anachronistic story telling is effective and she is skilled at moving the story along, even more adept at highlig ...more
Bharath Ramakrishnan
Jacob Jankowski is now in his 90s under care in a home. His mind travels back to the time he copes with tragedy when he loses his parents in an accident. It forces him to drop out of college while studying to be a Vet, and jump on a train. As it turns out he has landed in a circus train. What follows are his experiences in the circus. There is Arthur who is merciless and self centered. His wife Marlena whom Jacob follows in love with. Then there are the animals, especially the elephant Rosie.

Anne Goldschrift
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hach, was für ein schönes Ende ♥
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Symbolism: What is the "Water" and who is the "Elephant"? 40 1965 Dec 03, 2018 12:41AM  
For Love of a Book: Water for Elephants - Buddy Read November 11 11 Nov 18, 2018 11:56PM  
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Sara Gruen is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of five novels: AT THE WATER'S EDGE, APE HOUSE, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, RIDING LESSONS, and FLYING CHANGES. Her works have been translated into forty-three languages, and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS was adapted into a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Rob Pattinson, and Christ ...more
“When two people are meant to be together, they will be together. It's fate.” 799 likes
“With a secret like that, at some point the secret itself becomes irrelevant. The fact that you kept it does not.” 761 likes
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