Thursday, April 28, 2011

Water for Elephants

This book is an historical love story set in a circus during the depression.  This is a very entertaining and suspenseful book to read.  Time traveling into a life where both human and animal life is cheep, the reader lives through Jacob, a young boy who in loosing everything, joins the traveling circus as a veterinarian (though he walked away from his final exams without answering a single question).   Not only is the setting great, but so in the character development (Rosie, the bull elephant, comes to mind) and the story.

"The most interesting aspect of the book is all the circus lore that Gruen has so carefully researched. She has all the right vocabulary: grifters, roustabouts, workers, cooch tent, rubes, First of May, what the band plays when there's trouble, Jamaican ginger paralysis, life on a circus train, set-up and take-down, being run out of town by the "revenooers" or the cops, and losing all your hooch."

Sara Gruen weaves this tale magnificently, varying between Jacob's current life in a nursing home and his youth where he is involved in a dangerous love affair with Marlena, a woman who rides the elephants and horses.

This magnificent story has been made into a movie, though I would recommend reading the book first. 

This would be an excellent book club discussion book, however you may find that among rabid readers that most of your group has already read this on their own.  For that reason, you may consider one of her newer books, Ape House: A NovelRiding Lessons: A Novel, or Flying Changes. Sara Gruen has a special understanding of animal/human relationships which is reflected in her writing.

She has a particularly nice web site, with video included,  I liked watching the ape talk.  Check out the communication board used for conversations.