Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen
Publisher; Algonquin Books/Chapel Hill/2006
Plot; Jacob has a promising future. He is near the end of his University degree in Veterinary Science and is about to step into the business with his father, when both parents suddenly die in a motoring accident.
Now Jacob is alone and penniless, walking along the train tracks, hoping to hitch a ride.
In the darkness of the night, Jacob jumps on board a train. He doesn't know what kind of train it is, or where it is going, all he knows is he wants to escape. What he doesn't realise is that he is escaping with the circus, the Benzini Brothers Circus.
Claiming to be the Most Spectacular Show in the World, Jacob soon realises that the circus isn't all the glamour and sequins one would hope for. The back lot of a circus can be a dangerous place. A place full of heartless and selfish managers, merciless muscle men and those victims who have no choice but to live by the rules.
It isn't long before Jacob finds himself in the middle of, what will be known as, the biggest circus disaster.
My Thoughts; Beautiful. This glorious work of fiction is another book which can be added to the list of my all time favourites.
What I love about this book is the reality of it. Gruen takes all these events and describes them in such a realistic way that you can relate to each character, no matter how far the circus may be removed from your own life.
I love the contrast of the old man in the nursing home, sitting back wondering if he is going senile, compared to the young man, trying to find his way. It shows how life doesn't really change. Here is this old man, bound by a strict set of nursing home rules, wanting to push against those rules, just like his younger self, trapped in the rules of the Benzini Brother Circus, trying to push against those boundaries.
After seeing the trailer for the film, I knew I wanted to read the book. I imagined the rose-coloured world of the 1920's, with the shadowed background of the great depression. I imagined a slow and pretty tale. This is not at all what I got. This book is funny and lively and there are points where the book is far from pretty or beautiful, you could even say, gritty.
The cast of characters is fabulous. From the alcohol pickled Camel, to the short and short tempered Kinko, to the luscious and long breasted Barbara. You cannot help but fall in love with the members of the rag-tag world of the Benzini Brothers.
I am not going to give away what the "great disaster"is, but I will say that Gruen sets you up to be totally shocked. As I read about the "disaster" I literally held my hand up to my mouth and gasped. This is saying a lot because usually I have a book pretty well figured out by the time the climax hits.
I would recommend this book to anyone. I think the romance of it will appeal to the female readers, while the gruffness of it will appeal to the male. This isn't to say of course that the female readers out there won't also enjoy the gruff bits, in fact, I loved Gruen's depiction of the darker side of the circus.
(Take Another Chance Challenge, Challenge 1, "Heather's Picks", Chapter Indigo)