Thursday, April 22, 2010

What is it about these circus stories?

Water for Elephants: A Novel
by Sara Gruen

Since acquiring my Kindle, I've started playing a new game. I download "samples" of all kinds of books. If I can get hooked in the first few chapters, well clearly the author deserves the book sale.

That is exactly what happened with Water for Elephants. Almost immediately I was completely drawn into the story. Ms. Gruen uses an effective framing device for her tale. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski is telling his story in flashbacks from his present in a nursing home. And it is the story of his first job out of veterinary school. The year is 1931 and the country is embroiled in the Depression. Tragedy sends Jacob fleeing his orderly life. Without trying to, the young man winds up running away to the circus.

Water for Elephants is a coming of age novel, a buddy tale, a period drama, and a love story. It's one of those rare novels that seems to captivate almost all readers. I came late to it, but I was as entranced as all those who have raved before me. Gruen's prose is strong, but it's her characters and setting that capture the imagination. I haven't been to a circus in decades, and have no particular interest in that life. But Sara Gruen is a fantastically gifted storyteller, in the most elemental sense of the word. I will be grabbing future novels upon publication. Highly recommended to all who crave a great story!
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  1. I told you so!!!! I so loved every minute of this book and was instantly hooked as well! I have to say though, that I went back and read one of Sara's earlier books and it was not near as captivating. I hope her future work follows this vein of wonderfulness!

  2. You most certainly did tell me! And it should be no surprise that I loved your recommendation. Seeing as how you love so many of mine, it only makes sense it should work the other way. We are sympatico.

    And you have turned me into a Gruen fan. She has a new novel out in August called The Ape House that sounds pretty interesting. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy! (Let's hope I don't have to wait until August.)

    Meanwhile, I have a debut novel that I'll soon be reading and reviewing called The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, and it's being described as Geek Love meets Water for Elephants. I'm really looking forward to reading it, but I've got so many excellent books vying for my attention, and so little time.

    On the subject of time management, I'm really sorry I've been such a lousy blogger and correspondent of late. It is SO hard to find the time to read, much less write. Thanks for your notes and commets. I'm always so happy to hear from you, Sarah. :-)