Sunday, August 17, 2008
Book: Water for Elephants
I vaguely remember hearing of the book Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen a while back. Then I read a post about it on Hollie's blog, and it jogged my memory that I had been interested in giving it a read. There is something so intriguing about traveling circuses from the days of old. All the animals and performers, roadies and freaks riding into a town on a train and setting up.
So Water for Elephants introduces us to Jacob Jankowski, a now-elderly man in a nursing home. But as the circus comes to town, he reminisces about his days with the traveling circus, some 70 years prior. In his early 20s, Jacob runs away from the trials in his life, and happens upon a circus train. After a bit of a to-do, he is hired on to work for the circus, where he falls in love, works with the animals, befriends the performers, and does a heck of a lot of growing up.
The story jumps randomly back and forth between present time at the nursing home and the past at the circus. Based on some things said to the older character Jacob, I spent most of the book worrying/wondering if his memories were real, or the fabrication of an old dementia-affected mind. I won't mention the ending here.
Gruen certainly takes a setting that is not overused and makes it intriguing. I think I am about as interested in circuses as I am in vampires. I love seeing what stories a person can create using them as a background.
I have read SO many incredibly good books lately, that while this one didn't top my list, it was totally worth the read. If the subject matter isn't too weird for you, give it a try.