Monday, March 2, 2009

Book Review: Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen
c2006, Algonquin Books, 350 pages.

The Least You Need to Know... fiction, set during Great Depression; story of a young man who joins a traveling circus train; told through flashbacks by the man when he's 93.

Reminds Me Of... The Devil in the White City, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Pros... the writing, characters, and story quickly suck you in; fascinating details about circus life during the 1930s; satisfying ending.

Cons... lots of the book is set on a train, and the descriptions of the physical layout of the train cars is confusing; a few gratuitous sex scenes that could have accomplished the same purpose with more innuendo and less in-your-face.

You'll Love It If... you're a history geek; you enjoy somewhat intellectual fiction (more depth than Sophie Kinsella, not as "thinky" as Ian McEwan); you have a burning desire to run away and join the circus.

You'll Hate It If... you'd rather not spend your free time reliving the Great Depression; elephants or clowns creep you out.

Bottom Line... I really enjoyed the book. Included with each chapter is a historical photo of circus life that helps bring the words to life. Gruen more than did her homework researching the era - the book is ripe with great details (ex. people living in hobo jungles would tie their shoes around their ankles while they slept to avoid having them stolen...). How long will it take for the movie trailer to show up...?

Recommended by... Mom's bookshelf (yes, I'll bring it back when I come home in May).


Rebecca March 3, 2009 at 3:00 PM  

I agree with your assessment! Overall, I liked it.

keby March 3, 2009 at 6:49 PM  

Thanks for the recommendation. I've had this on my reading list for quite a while and I just haven't gotten to it yet.

Katie March 4, 2009 at 4:21 PM  

I LOVED this book, and you're right about the ending.

Anonymous,  March 4, 2009 at 9:37 PM  

oh wow - this is a GREAT way to do a book review. Thanks for sharing! I think this is one I'll avoid reading.

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