Thursday, November 16, 2023

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen


I have wanted to read Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen off and on for over a decade now. I even had a used paperback edition of the novel at one point in time, but never read it. 

I love elephants... But circuses have a dark history with regards to animal abuse. So, after hearing that animal abuse happens within the pages of Water For Elephants, I just couldn't bring myself to read it. Yes, yes, I know Water For Elephants is a work of fiction, but I couldn't bare to read this novel even though I'd heard it was a good read and should consider reading it for the writing and storyline alone.

Fast forward to this month. I decided to read Water For Elephants after all. Mainly, I decided to read Water For Elephants because I wanted to finally give this novel a chance. Also because maybe, just maybe, I was missing a great book filled with an amazing storyline and wonderful characters.

I wasn't disappointed with Water For Elephants. Yes, animals are abused in this novel (especially the elephant) and it was difficult to read certain segments because of it, but the story and the characters made it worthwhile in the end. The novel does have a happy ending though for all, including the elephant.

Water For Elephants focuses on the life of Jacob Janowski. Jacob Janowski is an elderly man in his 90s living in an assisted living home. Jacob is curmudgeonly and is getting forgetful as he can't remember if he's 90 or 93 years old.

Jacob begins to reminisce about his life as a circus veterinarian for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth during the great depression. Jacob's focus on his early life at the circus begins when he and the other residents of the assisted living home learn that a circus is coming to town. In fact, many of the elderly residents at the assisted living facility end up going to see the circus with their families. There is also a wild claim made by another assisted living resident of being the person who brings water to the elephants at a circus. This sets Jacob off as he claims that there was no such position at a circus... And so Jacob begins the story of his life starting with his college days in veterinarian school at Cornell University, followed by a family tragedy, life working at the circus, and eventually marrying the love of his life.

Water For Elephants alternates between current day and also Jacob's past, which makes for a great read. I enjoyed the characters, the storyline, and the writing for Water For Elephants. I am so happy that I finally read this novel... Or rather, I should say listened to the unabridged audio version of Water For Elephants, which was well narrated by two different narrators.

Water For Elephants was my second read for November 2023. Have you read Water For Elephants? What did you think of it?

Below is the publisher's summary for Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen from Chirp's website:
Jacob Janowski’s luck had run out-orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was the Great Depression and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. There he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but brutal animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this group of misfits was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

I am giving Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!


  1. I'm glad you ended up enjoying this one after all. I still haven't read it, but maybe someday. ;D

  2. I thought I had read this one, but, looking at my list of books read just now I see that I have not. But reading your review is enough for me I think. It doesn't sound like something I would enjoy reading.

  3. I read Water for Elephants with my book club. Some liked it but many (including myself) didn't. I had various reasons for that (as explained in my post) and I doubt I will ever pick up a book by this author again.
    But I'm glad you liked it.

    1. It's not for everyone... and that's okay! Off to check out your review for Wather For Elephants.

    2. Definitely not. We can't all like the same books.