Water for Elephants
In Depression-era America, everyone’s running away from something. Some people join the circus to escape.
Jacob Jankowski hitches a ride on a freight train and in that instant his life changes.
By morning he’s landed a job with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.
By nightfall, he’s in love.
Water for Elephants is a fantastically well researched historical novel demonstrating unerring attention to detail, with some elements based upon past events from the travelling circuses of the 1930s.
I borrowed this book from a friend without knowing anything about it other than the fact it’s been made into a movie. As someone who thrives on critiquing film adaptations of books and telling anyone who will listen that “it just didn’t do justice to the book”, it was a given that I would read the book prior to being within a five mile radius of a cinema. Fantastic decision – it was, without a doubt, the best book I’ve read in years.
The narrative of Water for Elephants is written in first person, weaving tightly around the past and present of the main character, Jacob Jankowski. If it wasn’t so well written, the transition between present day Jacob and his youthful counterpart might seem disjointed, but the story flows so smoothly from one to the other that it draws you in effortlessly. The characters come to life page by page and it wont be long until you feel as though you’re right there with him (and once the book is over, you will mourn their absence).
Jacob is ninety. Or ninety three. The story begins with him venting frustration at his deteriorating body, before we discover the traumatic sequence of events which led up to him hitching a ride on the circus train on the night everything changed. Soon after Jacob boards the train, we meet Camel and Walter, two characters whose lives entwine with Jacobs throughout the story, and it isn’t long before Jacob meets the beautiful Marlena…
The story quickly picks up momentum with Jacob reflecting upon his past with colourful descriptions and detailed dialogue – you won’t be disappointed; the detail in which the story is told is incredible. You’ll be able to effortlessly picture the grimy train and its inhabitants, the sprawling circus with its big top, and the menagerie of animals within. Alongside Jacob, there are a multitude of integral characters, all of whom are defined with the same faultless level of detail; Marlena, Rosie, Walter and Bobo are some of my favourites, but there will be at least one you will grow to love as this wonderful story casts its magic on you.
This story tells us of love and fierce loyalty between both animals and humans. It will make you laugh, and has the potential you make you cry. As the book drew to a close, I wished I could slow down and savour the story for as long as possible, but the pace of the book just kept me tearing through the pages right until the very last one.