Friday, September 21, 2007

TERRIFIC READS--Water for Elephants

It's been a while since I wrote a blog on terrific reads, but I have a book to recommend now which I just loved. I had been reading Christopher Hitchen's book God is Not Great--and while he makes many interesting points, it took me a long time to plow through it. Furthermore I was totally frustrated while reading it--he makes some errors in logic that drove me nuts.

At any rate, by the time I finished that book I was ready for a truly enjoyable read--and I found one. A friend of mine had told me that she recently read Water for Elephants and "just loved it." So, I bought it on her say-so alone. (I had a bit of fun buying the book--while my daughter was here visiting, we went to a bookstore one day, and this book was one I wanted to buy. But I couldn't remember the author's name. So I went to the help desk and said Water for Elephants, but I don't know who wrote it. Oh, the help desk woman said, Sara Gruen--only the woman's accent was a very thick German accent, so the R in Sara was swallowed, and Gruen came out like, well, Gruen--only said in the back of her mouth. But she immediately knew where the book was!)


Let's see--from the opening scene, where the reader meets the main character, Jacob, and learns that a catastrophe has just occurred in the Big Top (there is an animal stampede) to the very closing scene, where this catastrophic scene is reprised, this book is a charmer.

Told in first person narrative, the novel alternates sections in the voice of Jacob, who shares the narration with himself. The reader hears the voice of young Jacob (during the Depression) interspersed with the voice of 90 + year old Jacob (in current time). Young Jacob is a student at Cornell who, for reasons the reader learns, has to leave school suddenly. Since he has nowhere to go, he wanders disconsolately and, on a whim, hops aboard a passing train. Much to his surprise, the train turns out to be a circus train.

Eventually, he gets a job as the circus vet--he had been in the vet training program at Cornell. And from there, his life takes off.

The characters are vividly, lovingly and convincingly drawn. The dialogue crackles with authenticity of real people speaking. Some of the most poignant scenes are with old Jacob, now in a nursing home, longing for authentic experiences in life--including real food.
Along the way, the reader learns all sorts of inside information on life within the travelling circuses of the Depression era. And, one of the central characters is an elephant named Rosie.

The book simply flies by--it is such an easy enjoyable read. In fact, I made myself slow down a bit to savor the enjoyment a bit.

All in all--another TERRIFIC READ.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I just finished Water for Elephants yesterday and haven't been able to stop thinking about it. This is a wonderful book. I'm glad you liked it.

LauraHinNJ said...

I just read Sara Gruen's two other books - horse books - Riding Lessons and Flying Changes - and have been debating whether I ought to give this one a try also. Guess I will!

Pam said...

My stepdaughter recently told me about this book, she raved about it, actually. Time to do some shopping!

Cathy said...

I've missed dropping by, Donna. I was tempted by Hitchen's book, but contented myself with watching his In Depth interview on Book TV. His brother, Peter is also featured in Encore Book Notes.

Hmmm. My attempt to direct you there seems a little convoluted. Just google Book TV and In Depth and Encore Book Notes. click on archives to find the Hitchens bros.

Mary said...

I would like to know how everyone finds time to read. Maybe I'm just too disorganized or just too busy. But I DO take notes...

Thanks, Donna.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I shall check the book out the next time I am in a town with a book store.

Here is a web site I thought you might enjoy and could share with your students to inspire them in the love of books


denverdoc said...

I need a book that flies. I'm picking this one up today. The interleaving of young memories with old current situation is one I live each day with my aging mother. Thanks for the recommendation.

entoto said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I LOVE to read, but only manage to do it once the children are asleep. That leaves very little time, so it takes a while to get through most books. I have seen this books on many trips to the bookstore and will keep it in mind.

Ruth said...

It has been a while since I read a really good book. This one looks like one that I would find interesting.
Thanks for the recommendation.

Ginnie said...

I loved this book too and also the wonderful authentic pictures of the circus life in the depression years.

Beth said...

You haven't steered me wrong yet. I'll put this one on my list.

Thanks, Donna!