If you love your pet as much as a family member then this story will move you.
I didn’t think much of Water for Elephants when I watched it as a film. Although I enjoyed the exotic circus scenes of the 1930s, I wasn’t swept up by romance between Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon’s characters. But I wanted to read another novel by Sara Gruen after At the Water’s Edge so I took my chances with Water for Elephants.
Usually, I’m moved by love stories or tales of intense and conflicted friendship between women. But in Water for Elephants, it is the affection between the elephant, Rosie, and Jacob that touched my heart.
A lot of my friends and work colleagues speak about their dogs or cats with the glowing tones that I use to describe my children. One colleague took several days off work to care for her dog, who needed emergency surgery that cost thousands of dollars. I often feel a little guilty listening to these conversations, remembering my dog, Sasha. When I was in high school, I begged and begged my parents for a dog. They eventually bought me a beautiful rough collie that looked just like Lassie. I liked Sasha enough, but I never truly loved her. Perhaps this explained why she often looked mournful. I’ll never have another pet because I believe each animal deserves a besotted owner. I have accepted that I’m not an animal person and I can’t appreciate stories that emphasise the bond between them and humans.
But Sarah Gruen has managed to make me care about Rosie. Jacob frequently refers to her ‘big brown eyes,’ that sometimes speak of joy, but more often than not they express fear and unspeakable sadness. He also describes the way her mouth opens into a smile, or the way her trunk reaches out for a pat. I feel angry when Rosie is abused by August, who throttles her again and again with a metal hook. Jacob’s kindness and love for Rosie make him a narrator worth following, especially for readers who adore animals.
The following blurb for Water for Elephants is taken from Booktopia:
Set in a travelling circus touring the backblocks of America during the Great Depression of the early 1930s this is a story of love and hate, trains and circuses, dwarves and fat ladies, horses and elephants – or to be more specific, one elephant, Rosie, star of Benzini Bros Most Spectacular Show on Earth . . . Now a major motion picture.
When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, swindlers and misfits in a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression.
A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that Jacob meets Marlena, the beautiful equestrienne who is married to August, a charismatic but violently unpredictable animal trainer. Jacob also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems unmanageable until he discovers an unusual way to reach her.
Water for Elephants is a story that has it all – warmth, humour, poignancy and passion. It has an energy and spirit like the feeling under a big top when the show is about to begin. It is a novel that will win your heart.