Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Orphaned and penniless, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight train in the dark, and in that instant, transforms his future. By morning, he's landed a job with the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he's in love.
In an America made colorless by Prohibition and the Depression, the circus is a refuge of sequins and sensuality. But behind the glamour lies a darker world, where both animals and men are dispensable. Where falling in love is the most dangerous act of all...
Every little kid dreams of running away with the circus at one time or another - and when they do, they undoubtedly envision the canvas-tent circuses that traveled by train. Those circuses always seem more intriguing and exciting than the ones showing in TD Garden.* In Water for Elephants, Gruen revives those long-lost circuses and the performers
Gruen's book is set amid both the grandeur of old-time circuses and the desperation of the Great Depression. The vibrant, dazzling circus acts contrast with the corrupt and dangerous events behind the scenes. The setting draws you in with its combination of historical facts and immersive details, complimented by characters who are just as richly imagined.
The power of Jacob's story comes from both the realness of its setting and the impressive characters Jacob encounters. Every character has several sides to them, ulterior motives and very real emotions. Readers connect with both human and animal characters easily, and no one will be able to resist falling in love with Rosie.
Reading Water for Elephants, it's easy to forget that the characters don't exist off the pages. I found myself wrapped up in the drama and strange politics of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth and couldn't help caring about the outcome of the story. Told from the perspectives of both young and old Jacob, the story contains several layers. A balance of romance, action, suspense, and insight into Depression-era circus life keeps the story interesting and riveting. Although several scenes are somewhat sexually explicit, the book is overall tasteful. The love story in Water for Elephants compliments the plot nicely and is well developed. Fans of suspense, historical fiction, and good books will relish Water for Elephants.
*For those who don't know, TD Garden is a large arena used for basketball games, concerts, and special events in Boston.
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