16 April 2011

Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

After reading this book, I have one very important piece of advice: Should you ever make the acquaintance of an elephant, strive to become its friend! For me, to be a worthwhile read, a book must have engaging characters, plots and subplots that would leave you uneasy if you never learned the outcome and I expect to have learned something by the end of the story. Now, if you wrap that up in creative storytelling and a strong compelling conclusion, then you have a winner in my opinion. And, ladies and gents - we have a winner with this one!

The story unfolds as we follow Jacob through a difficult period of his life which leaves him not knowing how to continue. Spontaneous choices lead him to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. We follow from our normal world into the history of the Great Depression and into the belly of the circus world of that era. This book is a gritty fairy tale grounded in historical reality.

I very much appreciate that the author spent time to adventure and learn about the circus. Her sharing the tales and experiences of circus folk brought a depth to the story that made me feel like I had spent some time amongst their ranks myself. (There is an interview at the end of the novel from which I gathered this information - but don't read it first as there are spoilers).

Also, she discusses her writing technique and I am so very very glad to hear that I am not the only one who dives into writing without a full out plan or outline of what is to come. I like to learn how it plays out in detail along with my characters. I was somewhat worried that this quirk about me might doom me to failure.

I recommend the book, for those who might not have gathered that before now. Not a great surprise considering it has been on the NYT bestseller list for quite some time. Nevertheless, now you have my take as well, for what it's worth!

My favorite lines:

  "Twelve horses and a giraffe with a spider monkey hanging from its neck." (I know its not a complete thought, but it is my very favorite sentence in the book!)

  "He turns his face away in anger. Then he spins back. 'Do you truly comprehend the situation here, Jacob? Because sometimes I wonder.'
  'Of course I do! It's just I'm not liking any of the options.'" (I have felt this way more times than I like to admit.)

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this novel too. This made me want to go visit a circus museum we have in my state. I am also very excited to see the movie adaptation.