Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants

By Sara Gruen

  • Release Date: 2007-05-01
  • Genre: Fiction & Literature
Score: 4.5
From 2,564 Ratings


Over 10,000,000 copies in print worldwide
#1 New York Times Bestseller
A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
A Wall Street Journal Bestseller
A Newsday Favorite Book of 2006
A USA Today Bestseller
A Major Motion Picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz

Jacob Janowski’s luck had run out--orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was the Great Depression and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. There he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but brutal animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this group of misfits was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.


  • Hope during the depression

    By Julee V
    I love reading and very rarely do I read a book more than once. I've read this book 3 times and can't seem to get enough. I read the sample and immediately bought it. This book shows a different side of the trials and struggles of the circus during the depression. It has suspense which makes you cringe, hope that makes you happy, love that makes you sigh! It tells the story of love triumphing over all. The movie is great but nothing compared to the book. A must read for sure!!
  • Water for elephants

    By Rdw2005
    Beautifully written, wonderful story and perfectly narrated. Classic
  • Wonderful read, fascinating setting

    By archetype67
    4.5 Gruen's novel is a first person narrative that has a memorable narrator, particularly when it is the elderly version of Jacob speaking (he's "90. Or 93."). The elder Jacob's narrative is interwoven with Jacob when he's in his twenties. The elder's storyline is amusing and sad at the same time, but ends wonderfully. The younger Jacob's story is about his summer working with a train circus. The book is filled with wonderful characters and a thoroughly engaging world of the circus. Jacob has to navigate the complex social milieu he finds himself in, with performers and workers in two different classes, and even those divided by a hierarchy. As the circus vet, he works with the animals and when the circus takes on a seemingly difficult to work with elephant, Rosie, he develops a special bond with her. Rosie is a great character and much of the plot revolves around her in many ways. Jacob falls for Marlena, who works the equestrian acts, and happens to be the wife of the mercurial August, who handles the animal acts. Marlena ends up working with Rosie as well, helping develop an act which the circus knows will bring in the money. But through Jacob, we also learn the brutality of the circus as well - men no longer needed tossed from the moving train, the rush to buy out other circus acts when the collapse financially, and the reality that often-times when audiences don't fill up the show, workers go unpaid. Then the relationship with Jacob and Marlena builds, as does August's paranoia and anger, and the circus faces more hurdles and issues. The tension builds until the wonderful climax. The novel is peopled with other great characters - Walter, the dwarf clown, Camel, the old drunk worker and Uncle Al, the wheeling and dealing owner of the circus. The one flaw of the novel was Marlena - she was not as well-drawn as some of the others and I wanted more of her. She and August should have been matches for Jacob, but she fell short. The older Jacob narrative was well done, with Gruen capturing the angst and humor of growing old. The interaction between Jacob and his favorite nurse are touching and funny. The narrative was tight and moved quickly, the action and tension of the main narrative played off against the slower narrative of the elder Jacob. Gruen's descriptions were detailed but never exhaustive or overdone. Water For Elephants is a good read - entertaining story, emotional without being melodrama, with interesting characters and interesting setting.
  • By Brianne’s Reviews

    By brianne0741
    This was a well written book. It is a book I wish I would have been able to read before watching the movie, but alas, I cannot take it back. I loved reading the emotions in the story and also reading the difference in the book than what they portrayed in the movie. I will probably read it again before watching the movie just to see more of the differences. I want to read more of Gruen's works as well. Great job and cannot wait to see what she comes out with next!
  • Best book ever

    By beccabro
    Soo good ❤️❤️🐘
  • Great Novel!

    By Arams4712
    If you're looking for a compelling story with love, loss, violence, and passion then this is the story for you. I had trouble putting my iPad down and I felt engulfed by the story so much that I felt I was there throughout it all! Great writing, no wonder they made it into a movie! I loved the book and it had an ending that just seemed right. I've never written a review before, but felt this novel deserved it.
  • Great

    By Photolover1963
    Loved it.
  • Fantastic

    By Steph7302
    Absolutely couldn't put this book down. I had seen the movie probably 10 times already before reading it and the book is a lot like the movie. Highly recommend the book!! Can't say enough how much I love this story!!!
  • As good as everyone says

    By Smerrifield
    Read this and you won't be disappointed. I neglected a lot of things because I couldn't put this down.
  • Just average - 2.5 stars

    By S Wynn
    This book although rich in detail, was very melancholy throughout. Jacob and some other characters were fine, but Marlena lacked depth. The backstory about the circus was interesting. The ending was a surprise. Wanted to like this book but it just wasn't entertaining enough. It was one boring day after another on the train.