Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Water for Elephants

After avoiding this book like the plague, I finally gave in and read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I finished the entire book in 3 days ... does that tell you anything?

For those who don't know, here's a quick summary of the book (no spoilers - don't worry):
Jacob is ninety-something and in assisted living. In his youth, he walked out of his final exams and a promising career as a veterinarian and hopped a circus train. His experiences on the train - and back in the present day - are the focus of the story.
First let me say why I did not want to read this book. Here is a list of my reasons:
  • I don't like the circus ... is it just me, or are clowns really creepy?
  • I'm not a 'go along with the crowd' person, so I don't like to read what everyone else is reading
  • It just didn't sound interesting and I thought it would be a waste of time.
What finally changed my mind were the excellent reactions I heard from people whose 'book opinion' I trust. So I gave in and borrowed this book from my aunt while I was at her house (of course, now I have to mail it back to her in CA ...). Plus it fits the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge criteria - yeah!

Let me just say that I LOVED this book. Since I'm in a list mood today, here a list of why I loved this book:
  • Gruen's portrayal of the main character as an elderly man in assisted living were amazing! I felt like I WAS Jacob, feeling what he felt, dealing with the indignities of old age. I would have read the book for that alone.
  • Life on a circus train was crazy and cruel ... I could have guess this, but reading it was even better.
  • My copy included an interview with the author in which she explains that all the crazy, far-fetched things she included in the book were based on facts. I LOVE IT when authors tell you what's true and not true in their historical fiction.
  • The Depression Era is fascinating to me. I doubt I would have enjoyed this book as much had it been set in another time period.
  • I really liked the ending. I mean I REALLY liked the ending. That's not giving anything away, don't worry!
For me, this was one of those books that you just can't put down. I co-hosted a bridal shower this weekend and forced myself not to bring the book with me. If I had brought it, I would have stashed in under the sink in the bathroom and hid in there to read whenever possible (and the party was NOT bad!). I stayed up late to read, avoided my family to read ... yeah, this was one of THOSE books for me.

Have you read this? Reviewed it? Let me know and I'll add your link to this post.
Here's a review by Devourer of Books. And this online book club did a blog-book-tour for this book. The Inside Cover chose it for one of her online book clubs. Passion for the Page shares her favorite passages and lots of other reviews too. There's a thorough review at My Year of Reading Seriously. It wasn't a hit for The Bluestockings though.

17 comments:

Lezlie said...

I've avoided this one because I'm not sure I could deal with the treatment of the animals. Is it as hideous as I think it is? Or is my imagination running away with me? I'd like to read it, but I'm nervous. . .

Lezlie

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I enjoyed this one. I thought the ending was fabulous, the story good. I have a hard time recommending it because I was bothered by how much sex was in the book. The treatment of animals was horrible. I hated to think about how circus's were run back then and probably still are in many parts of the world.

Laura said...

I think I'm pretty much the only person in the world who hasn't read this book yet! Though I've read one or two not so rave reviews, the rest have rated it very highly. It sounds like I should just give in and read it!

Heather Johnson said...

Thanks for all the great comments!

I should have mentioned the sex in my review, but I completely forgot about it when I was writing. Here's what I have to say about it:

Yes, there are some descriptive scenes - not explicit sex, but sexual scenes. If you don't want to read anything with details then don't read this. Personally, this didn't bother me. I didn't feel that it was gratuitous; rather it made sense where it was placed.

Hope that helps!

Heather Johnson said...

Lezlie - Yes, there is cruelty to animals in this book, but most of it is left to the imagination or just hinted at. The treatment of the elephant is the worst, but that comes from one character and is more a manifestation of HIS evil nature than anything else.

I don't know if you've read Life of Pi, but the animal cruelty described in that book is FAR worse that what you find here.

Does that answer your question?

Lezlie said...

Heather ~ It does, thank you. I have not read Life of Pi yet, so I guess I'll have to steel myself for that one, too. I'm so bad with that kind of thing.

L.

devourerofbooks said...

I read and reviewed this book on my blog back in March. I loved it too, I actually read it in under 24 hours.

Fiddle1 said...

I think this was a selection for the book club on Lost and Found. I have not read it, but will keep my eye out for a copy. You might check on Mel's L&F page to see if she ever posts anyone's thoughts on the book.

We made it to Ireland in November..was practically deserted, but a nice time to go..not too cold. We still talk about it regularly and hope to go back. We toured the southwest coast by car and camped and stayed in hostels. It was great!

JamieD said...

Thanks for the comment on my site!! Also a part of NaComLeavMo I am glad you did!! I am an avid reader and always looking for something good to read. I will definitely keep up with you for future recommendations!

Heather Johnson said...

Devourer of Books - thanks! I linked my post up to yours.

Fiddle1 - We were there in October of that same year - crazy! Our time was spent in Northern Ireland with a few days in Dublin. Also, I did check out Mel's page, but it's more a list of who participated ... oh well!

Jamied - This whole NaComLeavMo thing is great, isn't it?! Please be sure to say hi whenever you drop in again. :)

Lisamm said...

I loved this book-one of my favorites of last year. I read it in 2 days.. I remember reading it at a hair salon while having it cut/colored (3 hours) and the time FLEW by.. I had 4 or 5 pages left to read when I was done in the chair and the girl finally had to ask me to sit in the lobby to finish!

Eliza said...

Oooo...I've been avoiding this one, but you might have convinced me!

Becca said...

Heh. I felt the same way about this book. By the time I finally caved in and read it, I felt like I was the last person in America who hadn't read it. And I was so glad I finally gave in. This was definitely one of the best books I've read this year. Glad you liked it too!

N.Vasillis said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this book. I read it for the first time this year and loved it. I really like your blog and thank you for leaving comments on "In their shoes" challenge, I love reading them. I hope you're having a great weekend.

Heather Johnson said...

lisamm - I totally get you! I had a hard time putting this one down.

Eliza - I avoided it for a long time ... don't make my mistake!

Becca and N.Vasillis - thanks for stopping by, I'm glad to know you both enjoyed this as well. :)

kellyrae said...

Oooh I loved this book as well. I picked it up not knowing anything about it (or even that it was trendy! shows how trendy I am!). It really affected me because I read it right as I was putting my grandmother into her own assisted living facility. So I probably cried more than I should. I also finished it in about 3 days.

farmlanebooks said...

I've just come across your site (mainly because I've just turned 30, so when I saw your blog title in someone else's sidebar I was drawn to it!) I loved this book too! I tend to follow the crowd - unlike you, so haven't heard of a lot of the books you've read. I'm going to have a browse round your site to see if I can find some different books to read!
Thanks for some great reviews!
Jackie

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