A novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932. When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.--From publisher description.
Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” is a mammoth success! Gruen has captured the essence of the spectacular drama and brutality of circus life during the Great Depression. And, of course, she threads a riveting love story throughout the chaos.
We learn of the circus through the elderly Jacob Jankowski, who, living out his days in a nursing home, uses these precious memories to escape the humdrum monotony of institutional life. Through his dreaming, we meet a myriad of characters including an elephant, a toothless tiger, and a dwarf. We learn about the historically-based facts of circus life – including the hierarchy of workers, animals, and performers. With each chapter, you will feel more and more like you are actually under the big tent watching these events unfold at the circus.
You will turn the last page, reluctantly. Your ears will be ringing from thunderous applause as you beg for an encore, as you will the performers back into the ring. And you will fall in love. You will fall in love with an elephant, a starlet, and Jacob Jankowski as both his younger, chivalrous self, as well as his cantankerous, yet lovable, “ninety, or ninety three” year-old self. You will never have been to a better show.
-- by Kelsy B.