Skip to main content
Displaying 1 of 1
Water for elephants : a novel
2006
Please select and request a specific volume by clicking one of the icons in the 'Find It' section below.
Find It
Map It
Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Jacob Jankowski (Male), Animal handler, Orphan, Hates living in a nursing home; parents were killed in an automobile accident; dropped out of veterinary school at the age of 21 to join the circus; took care of the circus animals which were treated badly before he arrived; in love with Marlena; trains Rosie
Marlena (Female), Circus performer, Married, Abused, Star of the equestrian act
August (Male), Animal trainer, Married, Marlena's husband; cruel; abuses both his wife and the animals
Rosie (Female), Elephant
Genre
Love story
Fiction
Psychological
Animal
Topics
Elephants
Life changes
Memories
Forbidden love
Domestic abuse
Love
Married women
Aging
Human-animal relationships
Circuses
Friendship
Circus life
Orphans
Economic depression
Animals
Animal cruelty
Animal trainers
Performers
Time Period
1930s -- 20th century
1990s -- 20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

When his parents are killed in a traffic accident, Jacob Jankowski hops a train after walking out on his final exams at Cornell, where he had hoped to earn a veterinary degree. The train turns out to be a circus train, and since it's the Depression, when someone with a vet's skills can attach himself to a circus if he's lucky, Jacob soon finds himself involved with the animal acts-specifically with the beautiful young Marlena, the horse rider, and her husband, August. Jacob falls for Marlena immediately, and the ensuing triangle is at the center of this novel, which follows the circus across the states. Jacob learns the ins and outs of circus life, in this case under the rule of the treacherous Uncle Al, who cheats the workers and deals roughly with patrons who complain about blatant false advertising and rip-off exhibits. Jacob and Marlena are attracted to each other, but their relationship is fairly innocent until it becomes clear that August is not merely jealous but dangerously mentally deranged. Old-fashioned and endearing, this is an enjoyable, fast-paced story told by the older Jacob, now in his nineties in a nursing home. From the author of Riding Lessons; recommended for all libraries.-Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

With its spotlight on elephants, Gruen's romantic page-turner hinges on the human-animal bonds that drove her debut and its sequel (Riding Lessons and Flying Changes)-but without the mass appeal that horses hold. The novel, told in flashback by nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski, recounts the wild and wonderful period he spent with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus he joined during the Great Depression. When 23-year-old Jankowski learns that his parents have been killed in a car crash, leaving him penniless, he drops out of Cornell veterinary school and parlays his expertise with animals into a job with the circus, where he cares for a menagerie of exotic creatures, including an elephant who only responds to Polish commands. He also falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers-a romance complicated by Marlena's husband, the unbalanced, sadistic circus boss who beats both his wife and the animals Jankowski cares for. Despite her often clich?d prose and the predictability of the story's ending, Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes and freaks who populate her book. (May 26) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Summary
Over 10,000,000 copies in print worldwide<br> #1 New York Times Bestseller<br> A Los Angeles Times Bestseller<br> A Wall Street Journal Bestseller<br> A Newsday Favorite Book of 2006<br> A USA Today Bestseller<br> A Major Motion Picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz<br> <br> 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.
Librarian's View
Displaying 1 of 1