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Publisher's Summary

An atmospheric tale of life and love in a Depression-era traveling circus. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world. Jacob introduces us to Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; to August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and to Rosie, a seemingly untrainable elephant.
Beautifully written, with a luminous sense of time and place, Water for Elephants tells of love in a world in which love's a luxury few can afford.
©2006 Sara Gruen (P)2006 HighBridge Company
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Critic Reviews

Book Sense Book of the Year Award, Adult Fiction, 2007
Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, Unabridged, 2007
" Water for Elephants resembles stealth hits like The Giant's House, by Elizabeth McCracken, or The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, books that combine outrageously whimsical premises with crowd-pleasing romanticism. . . . With a showman's expert timing, [Gruen] saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale.” ( New York Times Book Review)
"Just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief." ( Booklist)
"Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes, and freaks who populate her book." ( Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By Gary on 01-06-12

Worst book I've bought.

Would you try another book from Sara Gruen and/or David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ?

No!!! I didn't even finish this one so why should I buy another of their books.

What could Sara Gruen have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

This book was right down filthy. I'm supprised Sara would stoop this low.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Narrator was great.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Water for Elephants?

I would cut the vulgar language and sexual scenes.

Any additional comments?

There should be a rating for audible books before purchase.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By James on 03-31-14


What disappointed you about Water for Elephants?

I felt the book was contrived, and the author lacked depth in terms of writing talent and knowledge of the subject matter. I need to read the author's biography more carefully in the future. This is the first time a book so highly reviewed was so highly disappointing to me. I am afraid there might be too many "friends of Sara" reviewing here on Audible. Or perhaps it is more of a case of animal lovers refusing to judge the book on its own merits.

What do you think your next listen will be?

The Ghosts of Belfast

What didn’t you like about David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ’s performance?

I admit the subject matter was the main challenge for both performers, but the younger guy's voice sounded too nasal and shrill. I found myself wanting to tell him to stop his stupid whining and over-emphasing his words. I couldn't stop rolling my eyes and shaking my head at times.

What character would you cut from Water for Elephants?

The older narrator. The whole nursing home part of the story was annoying.

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13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Suzannah on 08-16-11

Water for Elephants

Both strangely exotic and nostalgically familiar, this tale of tenderness found in the harsh reality of circus life and enduring love stolen from cruelty is captivating and entrancing. Told through the eyes and voices of an old timer and his younger self, it flips from past to present and back again with ease and manages to bring two stories together with equal strength and interest. A beautiful story that is beautifully read by the narrators.

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Fran on 08-30-11


I listened to this for a second time when I had exhausted my new supply while away.
And it was just as enthralling as the first listen.

Brilliantly written and wonderfully read by the two readers.
I can't recommend it highly enough - one of the best audibles I've listened to.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Chistine on 10-04-17

Elephant brutallity

A well written story. The scenes where the elephant is so cruelly treated were so vivid that I almost stopped listening and felt quite anxious while listening.

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5 out of 5 stars
By Tim on 02-12-16

Great book, great narration.

Sorry to finish it. The story started a little slowly but soon exploded with colourful characters and a great description of a time gone by. Loved the book.

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