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Water for Elephants ~ Sara Gruen

February 13, 2012


Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
350 pages
ISBN: 9781616200701
Source: Book store

Thanks to my avid aversion to animal abuse and my intense phobia of clowns, I have never been a big fan of circuses. I broke through my general fear of the big top, late last year, when I ventured into the magical world of the not-so circus-like Night Circus. Not that I’m about to run away with carnies, now, but my success with that test did positively propel me forward to try something a bit more traditionally tightrope.

Though I don’t usually go in for books that have been turned into blockbusters, I came across Water for Elephants a little while ago and though, oh what the heck. Just reading a book doesn’t mean I have to watch the movie, right? I was well rewarded with a much grittier (and clown-free) story than I had anticipated. The story was nothing all that new; love and friendship and hurdles getting to and through each. The details, though, were the bits that made the entire book work for me.

Much of the serious violence (and there’s a lot) and dark, emotional turmoil was well worked into the story, not simply there for shock value. There was a bit of human brutality (which was unfortunately, fairly predictable to anyone who has read stories dealing with mental illness and domestic violence) but more than the person-to-person combat, the neglect and hurt felt by the animals was what had me in tears the most.  As I mentioned above, animal cruelty is one of the reasons I have never been into circuses. This book, then, was not much of a shock, though it did, certainly solidify my view.

I did enjoy the book a great deal, though, I certainly won’t be watching the movie based on friends’ reviews. There’s simply too much emotion and inner thought, integral to the book, that I don’t think will translate to the movie.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2012 1:59 pm

    Despite the fact that this book has become huge (the type of thing I usually avoid too) it IS a good book. It is so heartbreaking in so many ways, but it is always the animals that get me. If you mess with animals and old people, I go crazy. And for the record, I avoided the movie as well!

  2. February 13, 2012 4:42 pm

    I also stayed away from this movie and book based on the animal abuse. I don’t do well with circuses, and The Night Circus was a little more to my liking, and less overtly dark, but I can imagine that I would have a hard time with this story. I am glad that reading it didn’t put you off entirely, and that it was a solid book for you. Your review was wonderful to read. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. February 13, 2012 8:12 pm

    I liked this book a lot when I read it a while ago!

    I did really like The Night Circus when I read it a couple of years ago.

  4. February 13, 2012 10:14 pm

    I liked this so much more than I thought I would, but I don’t think it would translate well in a movie either.

    Glad to hear from you!!

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