Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Here's what it's about: As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie.
It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
Water for Elephants is a #1 New York Times bestseller. Gruen began the novel as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) an "event" that encourages writers to develop a 50k word novel in the short span of a month.
Similar to her earlier works in Riding Lessons and Flying Changes, Gruen's love of animals and their special bond with humans is an underlying current.
The novel is a book club favorite and there's not a person I've met who hasn't enjoyed it. There is drama, suspense, love, and a certain fantastical element.
The book was, of course, also recently adapted into a film.
While some elements from the book weren't translated in full into the movie, all the major tenants were. It's an incredibly beautiful film both in its cinemotography and in the way Robert Pattinson and Reece Witherspoon are able to portray Jacob and Marlena. They breath life into the characters, have wonderful chemistry, and bring an added flare to the romance and storyline. You believe their struggle, your heart aches for them as they endanger themselves by trying to help Rosie the elephant and, of course, in trying to help themselves to a better life--one with each other.
August's mental illness leaves the audience on the edge of their seat at all times as there's no telling when he'll snap. We see snippets of his madness when he throws men off trains to their death all because of weighty issues like debt or minor issues such as annoyance. August is portrayed so believably by Christoph Waltz that I most thoroughly despise him. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Waltz is nominated for his role here.
But Waltz's isn't the only fabulous acting in this film. While I admit I eat up the Twilight movies it wasn't until I saw Water for Elephants that I was convinced Pattinson had any range as an actor. There had also been grumbling at the onset of filming whether Witherspoon was old to be playing Marlena but she pulls it off wonderfully adding layers and layers of depth to her character and and making Gruen fans proud. Marlena is broken but strong, mesmerizingly beautiful, and always a woman weighing her choices in life.
It's a film worth watching just as the book's worth reading. You won't be disappointed.
This is author Gruen with the film's elephant. LOVE this pic!
How did you like the book and film or are you hoping to catch them both?