Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Water for Elephants

As much as I love reviewing books I've just read, I don't like the fact that some of my favorite books from before I started this blog are not represented here. They might not be flashiest or the shiniest brand-spanking-new titles, but these are books that have helped define me as a reader. I'm going to try for one review a week of  my "oldies but goodies" and link them up for Book Review Wednesdays. Here's my first one:

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a little ashamed to admit that an odd title and the original cover which I didn't really care for stopped me from picking this book up sooner. It was making the rounds in book clubs, magazines, best-seller lists, the net, and anywhere else you might find book recommendations, but I just wasn't getting all the hype. It wasn't until I saw a trailer for the movie adaptation, that my interest was really piqued and I realized it actually was the kind of story I would enjoy.

Once I did pick it up, I was utterly mesmerized. I'm not a fast reader, but I literally inhaled this magical novel. If I had to tear myself away from it, I was still thinking about it and counting down the minutes until I could crack it back open and continue reading. And when I turned the last page, I immediately wanted start it again, I loved it that much. At it's core, this book is a romance, but there is so much more to it than just that. It's a Depression-era travelling circus come to life, complete with some amazing animals, men who just might be evil incarnate, and a cast of endearing characters who make the best of the tough hand life has dealt them.

It begins in the present day with Jacob Jankowski as an elderly nursing home resident. I might be a little biased here since I used to work at a nursing home, but this little old man charmed me from the first minute I met him. He's feisty despite his physical limitations and his enduring, lifelong love for his wife Marlena is touching to witness. There are some blurred lines between right and wrong, since his wife was married to someone else when they met, but once you meet the bastard (pardon my language, I really can't help it in this case!), I think you'll understand why sometimes breaking the rules can be overlooked.

All too often, when a book has a really well done romance, it's hard for other relationships in a story to shine, but that is not the case here. Besides Jacob and Marlena, the relationships between Jacob and Rosie the elephant and between Jacob and his friend Kinko were also amazingly well done. For me, this book is the very definition of a richly developed, plotted, and characterized novel, and I truly applaud Sara Gruen for that. This one will be on my re-read list for life.

I should also note, as such a huge fan of the book, I was a bit disappointed with the movie. I loved the actors they chose, the set was brilliant, and they did a really decent job of capturing the spirit of the book, but I just wanted so much more. But even if you loved the movie, that's all the more reason to read the book because the book is infinitely better!

If you want to join Book Review Wednesdays, there aren't actually any restrictions on which kind of book review you can link up, this is just the way I'm choosing to do it. (If you're still not sure, you should know that if you submit a review, you're entered to win a weekly prize from Amazon!) The linky usually opens Tuesday evenings, so my reviews will sometimes be a day early (if I've got my act together!)


  1. I loved this book! I agree, the movie was not as great. It was just missing something...

  2. I loved this book, so I purposely didn't see the movie. No need to ruin perfection. PLUS, my dog Benny FLIPS OUT if there are animals on TV and there's no need to stress out the whole family if the movie is sub par.

    Also - thanks for the link! I'm totally doing this from now on.

    1. I'm glad to help out! Given the fact that there's even a prize involved, I'm really surprised it hasn't caught on more. This is actually the second time I entered a review and both times there weren't a lot of other entries. So here's to spreading the word!

  3. What a great idea to share some of the books you read before starting the blog! Sometimes I get the need to want to share too when I realize I've read so many good books before this blog.

    I also read Water for Elephants and it exactly what you said "magical". I loved the book and even though the movie didn't do it justice, I also really enjoyed the movie as well.

    I have not heard of this Book Review Wednesday meme. I may have to check it out.

    1. These older book reviews are also kind of helping me fill in the gaps since I'm not the fastest reader. I'm pretty sure you read quite a bit faster than me, so you probably have more material to work with! But if you do get around to reviewing some of your older favorites, I'd love to read about them.

      As for this book, I was actually really surprised to find a lot of the reviews that were showing up first on GoodReads pretty much trashed it. Of course there were some 5 star reviews mixed in as well, but the number of 1 and 2 stars really surprised me. So I'm really glad to hear other people loved it too!

  4. I came from Cym Lowell's Book Review Party Wednesday (BRPW).

    It wasn't the odd title or the cover which stopped me from picking this book up, it was Rob P... I know, I can be judgmental that way.

    Cherry Mischievous

    1. Well I guess all different things influence us -- as much as we'd like to, we can't read everything afterall!


I'd love to hear what you think :)