Warning: this review will contain spoilers.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Star rating: ★★★ ☆☆ 3/5 stars
Summary: Jacob Jankowski reflects on his early adult life when he joined a circus rather than finish veterinary school. He currently resides in an assisted living home and a circus coming to town brings back fresh memories.
Reasons for picking this book: I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while. I remember it was like everywhere for the longest time but I never picked it up. I thought of this book when I saw the prompt for a road trip. I couldn’t think of any of books about a road trip besides On the Road and I will be damned if I ever give that book the time of day ever again. I’d rather die.
Review: The book starts super slow. I almost tossed the book down when I was in the second chapter. As I’ve said before, first person present tense narrative is the bane of my existence. I loathe it with every fiber of my being. I don’t know why anyone writes this way, it’s so hard to the reader. Not only that but there was a lot in the beginning of Jacob being a ninety something in an old folks home. Those points of the book were pretty boring and annoying because he was constantly bitching. Like yeah, old folks homes suck balls but they’re also hella boring.
I really wanted to be wrong but I totally called Jacob walking in on someone jerking off. I mean, seems like it would happen in the situation of such cramped corners but I hoped Gruen would t feel the need to write it in, but she did. But in general I’m just really bored by male sexuality so it’s not something I would want to read about. I just do not care, sorry. Although, a lot of the “sexy” scenes confused me more than anything. I’m especially thinking about the scene with Barbara’s stripping act. What the hell was going on with her boobs? She was pulling them up by her nipples? And then swinging them and making them clap? What? That was just… What? Most of it sounded either uncomfortable as hell or just really improbable. I had a permanent what the fuck face reading that scene.
I liked that the affair between Jacob and Marlena didn’t start until later in the book. I like that Gruen gave it some build rather than just jumping right into it. I thought that was good because with such close quarters and little to no privacy I wouldn’t have believed them being able to keep it a secret.
I thought the details that Gruen used from real circus stories/memoirs/whatever you want to call it was a good touch. It felt fairly realistic and while I don’t know much about this period or circus history there wasn’t any point where I thought there was no way I could believe this. The treatment of the animals was really depressing and made me really sad to read. I wanted Jacob to try to do more for them and stop boohooing over Marlena.
I was also upset no one did anything for Walter. There were five dudes that survived the fall, they could have helped him, Jacob could have gone back at least to give him a proper burial. Like shit dude.
I liked how the book ended, with Jacob basically peaceing out from the old folks home. I thought that was really great especially how much he hated living there. I hope he gets less jelly food.
Recommendation: I think the story is pretty good, especially if you’re a fan of circuses.
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