Water for Elephants

August 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve never been a big reader, so I was less than pleased when I was faced with yet another annual summer reading assignment this year (isn’t this supposed to be my vacation?!). However, I had an unexpected stoke of luck when the book Water for Elephants appeared on the list of books I could use for my additional reading this summer (we must read one required book, and chose another book from a list to read as well).

Sara Gruen, you’ve outdone yourself.

I immediately chose to read this book due to the raving reviews my friends gave it, and was not disappointed. The story lived up to every outstanding comment it received, and with good reason.

For those of you who are not familiar with the book (which I highly recommend you pick up now if you’re not), the compelling novel tells the story of a young man who (literally) jumps on board with a circus in the 1930s. The characters are so well developed you would love to sit down to lunch with them one day, and the plot is so page turning you’ll fall asleep eagerly anticipating what comes next. This is a fantastic quality in a novel someone who has a short attention span, like myself. I struggle to focus on slow paced books that ease into the action. Water for Elephants starts out with a bang that rings in your ears until you’ve turned the final page.

A few more fantastic features include…

1. A story story jumps around in time. The book is always narrated by the main character, but the reader gets to hear from him when hes in his twenties, and when hes in his nineties. The book goes back and forth between his time and the circus, and his time in an old folks home. This works wonders in terms of character development. I love seeing all the aspects of his personality that stick with him in his old age.

2. A well rounded antagonist. Although the two denominational, black caped villain with the maniacal laugh is entertaining, being able to understand his/her motives adds a new layer of complexity to the story. Its for this reason I adore stories like The Phantom of the Opera and Macbeth. You desperately want to hate the “bad-guy,” but you sympathize with his/her struggles.

3. A love story that takes a back seat to the other action. Although the through line of love is essential to the book, it is not the only engine that keeps the plot running. For this reason, Water for Elephants is not only a love story, but a story about a young man attempting to get his life back on track (no rail road pun intended).

So, if you haven’t already jumped out of your chair/swivel chair/bed and run to the nearest library/book store/friends house to get your hands on this book, I’d highly recommend doing so as soon as possible. I guess I’ll work on all of the “book journal entries” that I neglected to complete while reading (sue me, I couldn’t put the book down for a second!).

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