Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Water for Elephants - A review and my "book of the year 2006"

Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Every now and then a book comes along that is so special and deliciously told, that you cannot help but be drawn heart first into the story; you live and breathe the book until the very last page, ferociously consuming the story but at the same time passionately not wanting it to end. The enchanting debut novel “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen is one of these rare books.

Set in depression era America, this is the captivating story of Jacob Jankowski, a young student about to sit his final gruelling veterinary exams when his world implodes with the sudden, tragic death of his parents. While trying to outrun his misery and grief he jumps on a passing train and quickly finds himself official vet to The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show On Earth. It is a struggling second rate travelling circus full of a colourful cast of freaks, misfits, crew, performers, animals of all shapes and sizes, an elephant with a secret and the proverbial elephant memory, a volatile and vicious animal trainer and his beautiful, fragile wife, the equestrienne Marlena whom Jacob quickly and dangerously falls in love with.

The story is told through a series of flashbacks from the now elderly and infirmed Jacob, provoked by memories of his life as he sits watching a circus big top being erected near to the rest home he is struggling to come to terms with being incarcerated in. It is a life story full of humour and warmth that runs the full array of human emotion in its retelling and is most definitely the best book I have read in 2006.

Sara Gruen spins a stunning tale of love, danger, intrigue, revenge and despair in her contemporary fiction novel Water for Elephants, richly filled with details of circus life, characters – both human and animal - your heart will ache for, humour and sincerity as well as a tender conclusion certain to bring a smile to even the most cynical of readers.

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