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Friday, 13 January 2012

Review: Water for Elephants

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Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
(Blurb from Goodreads)

I have to admit that when I received this book for Christmas from a Secret Santa, I was a little disappointed.  The cover was a huge turn-off for me as it’s packaged as a romance (I tend to stick to chick-lit when indulging in romance) so I was complete caught off guard by the amazing story that unfolded as I turned the pages.

While there is a romantic plot of sorts, that is not what I will take away from reading this story.  I will remember the details (at times repugnant) and the outlandishness of it all.  And most of all, I will remember the way I was sucked into the often brutal world of train circuses, something that wasn’t even on my radar until this book landed in my lap.  This book reminded me of the power of words, of stories.  And at the heart of it, I was reminded of humanity in so many forms.

I honestly can’t think of anyone who shouldn’t read this book.  I know my world-view will be forever changed from this experience, so I hope you consider adding it to your to-read list (or, even better, buying it or renting it and reading it next).

I realise that I haven’t given you much to go on with this review, but it has truly left me speechless (something that very rarely happens).  To say more would negate from the experience waiting within the pages – an adventure that at times will make you avert your eyes (to no use as the image is printed into your imagination), and at others will keep you up to find out what could possibly happen next (yes, that did happen to me last night, so I am considerably more tired today than perhaps I should have been).  So go, read.  And feel free to share any world-changing books that you think I should read, in the comments.


Paula said...

I loved Water for Elephants! It was one of my favorite books that read last year. One book that I would recommend is The Hunger Games. It is so good!

Unknown said...

Paula, I have just finished reading 'Catching Fire' which is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy - currently on the waiting list for the third at my library (they're very popular). Have been really enjoying them.

dominique said...

Thanks for the book review. I just downloaded the book on my iPhone to listen to on my return trip home and the first day back (as I have no doubt I will need to rest).

Now I really can't wait to read it!