Water for Elephants
By: Sara Gruen
Paige’s Rating: (3) of 5 Stars
Recommended for: Fiction/Romance Readers
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.
I was at the local bookstore, looking through the very sparse English section. While on my way out, disappointed, I noticed this book on display. I didn’t think twice about reaching out and grabbing it. The title was English, the back cover was in English, and when I snapped the book open, I saw English. Hot damn! I bought the book immediately as it was one that was on my “to read” list. Talk about disappointment and again, this may be my own fault because I tend to get too excited about some books.
The plot had great potential, as it is set in the 1930s era of the Depression and Prohibition. In the beginning chapters as we are introduced to a young man, Jacob. Through a twist of fate, Jacob ends up being a part of a circus and recounts his memories of this lifestyle as an elderly man of now 90 or 93 (he can’t remember). But as the story continues, the author tries to introduce a romance, which I think fails miserably. The romance seems to be based on nothing as the characters that fall in love have no real connection at any time in the book. I felt that the romance was therefore forced and completely unbelievable.
The characters were also interesting in the beginning, but they never fully developed and remained flat throughout the book. The main character, Jacob, seems shy, awkward and yet incredible kind. You expect him to sort of rise up and act like a man but he never really does. Oh sure, he starts fights and stands up for the woman he supposedly loves, but at the end of the book he just seems like this holier-than-thou angel. His soul is so innocent and pure that as a reader, I find it hard to connect with him. The woman he falls in love with, is as well, flat. She seems to be demure and yet overly emotional. Throughout most of the book, she is either crying or crying on the inside. The only character that is believable is August, the schizophrenic. Apparently the author can nail a character like that, but can’t quite draw up believable lovers.
The book was a quick and easy read, so it is one that I would suggest for the upcoming summer holidays if you want something light to read. In fact, it’s much like the circuses of today: slightly entertaining but mostly disenchanting.