|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Genre: Literary Fiction
Start Date: Jan. 7, 2011
Finished Date: Jan. 10, 2011 (4 days)
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: Word of mouth, lots of positive reviews, plus the movie was being filmed at the time I heard about it, and my mom (being the big Robert Pattinson fan she is) reminded me that he was in it :)
Summary: Orphaned and penniless during the Depression, a young med student joins a traveling circus troupe where he treats animals, including a loyal elephant named Rosie, making friends such as a small but gruff performer, falling in love with the beautiful lead starlet, and dealing with enemies such as the greedy circus master and short-fused animal trainer married to the woman he loves.
The circus is a beacon of childhood nostalgia from the distinct, pleasant smell of hay to the gargantuan animals that roam through the grounds. What we don't get to see and may not want to know (at least when trying to enjoy ourselves) is the behind-the-scenes drama of orchestrating the show from training & treatment of animals to life on a traveling wagon, not knowing what day it is or city you are in.
Water For Elephants begins & ends with a catastrophe and in between is the buildup, followed by an epilogue of sorts that gives us the aftermath. Jacob is an unfortuante young soul unable to settle into adulthood and so tries to escape it, falling, like Alice in Wonderland, into an unexpected world of odd characters brought together by a common dream of living up to what the circus is on the outside, but finding its inner workings to be much grittier and corrupt than expected. Animals are underfed & often abused, performers are pushed to their physical limits, an antagonistic class structure exists between performers and workers, and, being at the forefront of the Depression, nearly everyone is underpaid & hungry.
Water For Elephants is like literary "chick lit"--the pages flew by! It was equal parts romance and drama with a touch of suspense. The characters have deep qualities that lend to the story and carry the plot, which comes across as deliciously old-fashioned, like a period movie. In fact, the book is very cinematic with its descriptive, highly visual language and the unique ensemble of characters. Obviously I wasn't the only one to notice this :) The movie adaptation of the novel is to be released this April with Robert Pattinson as Jacob, Reese Witherspoon as Marlena, Christoph Waltz as August, and Hal Holbrook as older Jacob. I could easily, without a doubt see these actors in their roles. Very well cast! I'm looking forward to catching the movie in the spring.
As for Sara Gruen's follow-up novel, Ape House, I've heard conflicting reviews about it, and I'm not 100% enthused about it, but I may read it far off in the future. I've got a lot of reading material to look at before that ;)
Rank: (A)- Highly Recommend