Water for Elephants

I just finished Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, last week and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t the Most Spectacular Story on Earth, but then again – what is, really?

Jacob Jankowski is 90 (or 93?), and 23; as the former, he bemoans his current living situation in a nursing home, and as the latter, he recounts the wild life he led the summer of 1931, when worked as a vet for the circus – but not just any circus. He worked for The Benzini Brother’s Most Spectacular Show on Earth!

I had mixed feelings about the authenticity of the story, because I feel that it was written with a 21st century sentimentality regarding how well animals (especially circus animals) should be treated. But by the same token, I almost definitely would not have been able to get through the book had it not been for the fact that the two protagonists (Jacob and Marlena) so strongly believed in the ethical treatment of animals, and I also recognize that this shared core belief also served as sort of literary device to help make sense of the success of their otherwise unlikely love story.

I also had mixed feelings about the narration style of young Jacob, mostly because he came across as weak and whiny a lot of the time, but I was generally very impressed with the ways in which he vocalized the other characters of the story. His voice, when combined with the writing style, made for some of the most breathtaking moments I’ve ever experienced in literature – I’ve never been able to so perfectly and vibrantly envision so many moments or entire scenes as I was with this book.

It’s a fine, beautiful story on the whole; there are a few awkward moments, but it’s a coming-of-age story so that’s sort of to be expected, but I would encourage anyone who wants a romantic, adventurous, and colorful story to follow for a while to check this out one.

In the meantime, here are some beautiful girls – sort of Next Generation Marlena’s.


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