Sara Gruen’s, Water for Elephants

This book was a little too gritty for me, but I recognize that I’m far more sensitive about public display of sexuality than most. I understand that sensuality was a huge part of circus life. The story needed to acknowledge that part of the circus world, but I would have appreciated being spared so many of the ugly details.

In spite of this I had to keep reading. The originality of the setting, plot, and characters kept egging me on. I don’t believe I have ever encountered a story about circus performers in the 1930’s, set mostly on and just off the train. I was absolutely absorbed in that world.

I loved the parallel story lines involving old Jacob and young Jacob. It wasn’t just an older person reflecting on his former years; old Jacob had problems and struggles to overcome as well. I loved watching him in both situations growing and evolving. Just as Dave Weich says in his interview with Sara Gruen (transcript at the back of the book), juxtaposing the old Jacob with the new Jacob, “grounds some of the crazier stuff going on in his past.” It softens his wild days and endears him to the reader.

The ending was great. Gruen is not afraid of a little falling action, which I deeply appreciate. All the ends wrap up nicely, but there’s plenty of hints for Jacob’s future. I probably won’t read this book again, because of the many detailed sexual encounters, but it was well-written, well-rounded and very satisfying.


4 responses to this post.

  1. When I reviewed this book a couple of years ago, I was just like you in mentioning the detailed sexual encounters. I had many commenters tell me they couldn’t remember a single sexual thing about it which of course had me shocked. Somebody else called me a prude. Oh well . . we will stand together! I also liked this one despite the sex.


  2. Lynn, I just found your blogs through your FB page, and you hooked me enough with this review that on Saturday I went to the library and got it out! Well fast forward to Sunday after church…I finally had time to read it, and was done by the time I went to bed – I couldn’t put it down! I really really liked it, and the ending was fantastic. Really good closure. I was expecting a lot more sexy moments, so I was actually pleasantly surprised that there was more circus story than sex:) Thanks for the recommendation! We are coming to UT in July and will definitely spend time with Amanda/Zeke so I might see you then!


  3. It’s great to hear from you!! ‘m glad you liked the book. I really did too. The characters just lived for me. That’s great that you’re coming to town this summer! I hope we can get together and chat!


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