Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

"I worked on circuses for nearly seven years, and if that isn't fodder for conversation, I don't know what is." So says the narrator of Water for Elephants, 90-something-year-old Jacob Jankowski, about his experiences in a travelling circus called The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

I began Gruen's New York Times bestselling novel this morning. I'm reading it simultaneously alongside I Thought My Father Was God.

I borrowed the following summary from the novel's Wikipedia entry...

The story is told as a series of memories by Jankowski, a ninety-three-year-old man who lives in a nursing home.

As the memories begin, Jacob Jankowski is twenty-three years old and preparing for his final exams as a Cornell University veterinary student when he receives the news that his parents were killed in a car accident. Jacob’s father was a veterinarian and Jacob had planned to join his practice. Jacob further discovers his parents were deeply in debt, because his kind-hearted father treated animals even when their owners weren’t able to pay. With his plans in chaos, Jacob has a breakdown and leaves school just short of completing his final exams for graduation. In the dark of night, he wanders aimlessly, and then jumps on the first train he sees, which turns out to be a circus train. When the tyrannical owner of the outfit, "Uncle Al," learns of Jacob's training as a vet, he hires him to care for the circus animals.

The novel chronicles Jacob’s experiences as he learns the hierarchy of circus life, picks up the lingo of its laborers and performers, and gains an understanding of the brutalities inherent in this clandestine society. Along, the way, as he struggles to maintain his moral compass in a sea of recklessness, he falls in love...

P.S... If you enjoy stories centered around the theme of circus life, or just memoirs in general, you should check out Mary R. Wise's book, Girl Clown. Mary is a Maryland author I met during a kick-off event for this year's NaNoWriMo in Columbia, MD. In addition to being an interesting and warm-hearted individual with a great blog, this former "girl clown" can write up a storm.

3 comments:

Rebecca said...

This is on my TBR list and I'm eager to get to it because two of my friends had polar opposite reactions to it. I'll be eager to hear what you think once you've finished.

Rebecca said...

Yep, I have it---a birthday gift from the friend who LOVED it. :-) Thank you anyway! Do you participate in Bookcrossing?

first50 said...

You are going to enjoy this wonderful book. I'll be interested in what you think of the ending. :)