Saturday, August 14, 2010

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I will admit that my love of all things Robert Pattinson is what enticed me to read this novel that I've skimmed over, but never purchased . After seeing a few screen shots of the movie that is currently in production, I decided I wanted to know more about Rob's character, Jacob Jankowski. He's uber hot in these pics. Can you blame me? There are so many more fabulous pictures @ Oh, my. Suspenders never looked so good!

Reading the book with the mental images of Rob as Jacob might have made the book better for me than if I'd read it before movie production began. Call me shallow and a petty, but I thoroughly enjoyed the entire novel because of Rob and let's not forget the fabulous writing of Sara Gruen. I can't imagine the effort and research it took to know so much about the Depression era circus business. Gruen creates a seamless world of circus life that was engrossing and real. I'm hoping the movie can recreate the amazing imagery Gruen supplied producers with, and from looking at the movie stills, I'm seeing that they may be on the right track. I also love the juxtaposition of narration between old Jacob and young Jacob. It reminds me of The Notebook, but with less Alzheimer's and more elephants.

Gruen begins the novel with a 90 year old (or 93 year old....he's not quiet sure. What do a few years matter when he's already this old, he wanders?) Jacob. He's lonely and stuck in a nursing home, with ample time to reflect upon his life. The arrival of a traveling circus in the adjacent lot next to his nursing home stirs memories of his young-adult life. Jacob begins the long and mysterious track down memory lane, and his involvement with a traveling circus in the 1930s....

Jacob Jankowski is days away from completing his degree in veterinary medicine at Cornell University when he receives heartbreaking news about his parents. This news rattles him to the core, and sends him in a tailspin that leads him to the moving train of the Benzini Brothers Circus. Hoping aboard the train with only the clothes on his back, Jacob leaves behind everything and everyone he has ever known. His almost-degree in veterinary medicine makes him a perfect candidate to care for the rare and exotic animals on the tour, yet also separates him from the other working-class men he is surrounded by.

Immediately enamored by the beautiful and talented horse trainer and performer, Marlena, Jacob decides to stay on with the circus. Never mind that Marlena is married to the paranoid schizophrenic animal trainer, August. A man who immediately identifies Jacob as a threat, and has no qualms about getting rid of the new vet.

The gritty, often terrifying world of the Benzini Brothers Circus is the most unique and rare settings of any novel I've read this year. Water for Elephants is a brilliant novel, and will hopefully be complemented by an equally spectacular movie!

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