Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Follow-up on Water For Elephants, Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants was a very riveting read that, one night, even kept me, the early-to-bed person, up until 1 a.m., because I could not find a point at which it was easy to set the book aside.
I enjoyed Gruen's sharp and well selected, detailed descriptions of circus life, with a good dosage of circus lingo -- words I had never heard before, to add realism to the story.

Water for Elephants contained a satisfying mix of multi-layered characters. Some of them surprised me -- at first, gritty on the outside, but as they evolved, slowly displaying the humanity that lay beneath their exteriors -- as with Kinko the dwarf, later revealed to be named Walter (because only his friends could call him that).

And, since I'm not very biblically versed, I didn't understand the references to Jacob in the story and how that fit in with the Bible. I felt I missed some significance that would have added to my understanding of the story. There was some correlation with the religious story of the man known as Jacob, which Sara Gruen mentioned at the end of the book. Luckily, I did some sleuthing, consulting some book discussions on Amazon and found that even people familiar with the Bible missed what that was about. Sara kindly explained the cryptic issue in a comment within the discussion, saying:

There are anagrams, both exact and phonetic:
Catherine Hale=Leah, Marlena L'Arche=Rachel, Alan Bunkel (Uncle Al)=Uncle Laban. There is the flat rock, the dream, the animal husbandry for Uncle Laban. Jacob and Rachel (Marlena) leave with Uncle Al's (Uncle Laban's) best livestock, Jacob must do an additional seven years of animal husbandry in order to be with Marlena, he breaks his hip, etc. Some of his children's names are the same as well.

Lastly, since I wish to publish my own novel one day, I made a mental note that, should I ever do so, I will also employ the present-tense style Gruen used throughout the book. I believe this gives the story a sense of immediacy that brings the reader directly into the midst of the unfolding of events.

Also, see my previous post about Water for Elephants.

1 comment:

Toryssa said...

Oh how I LOATHED this novel. I had heard so many wonderful things about it... and it had so much potential. The setting of a depression era traveling circus? LOVE. That the authors voice had been likened to John Irving's? I love him!

I won't continue, my thoughts are here, if you are interested: