Sunday, October 3, 2010

Water for Elephants

Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up a dozen times in Barnes & Noble. Each time, I put it back down because it was about a circus and about people who cared for and performed with animals. I do not like circuses – they’re disturbing and dirty. The animals are forced to live in squalor and inevitably there are always clowns. I hate clowns. I also do not love animals, and so a story that centers around things that, for the most part, I avoid is not a must-read.
But people kept talking about “Water for Elephants” – my aunt raved about it. My grandma raved even more about it. And then when I was in Los Angeles, a new friend of mine announced that she was nannying for Reese Witherspoon’s body double while Reese filmed “Water for Elephants”. My general inclination to read bestsellers before they become movies kicked in, and one random night in July, I finally bought my copy of this “must-read”.
I have to be honest. I did not love this book. I really do hate circuses, but that said, this story is so well told. Through Gruen’s deft pen, we step into a world of an old man reflecting on days gone by when he worked as a veterinarian for a circus. The reader gets lost in the sequins, the cotton candy, and the ever-elusive quest for money, for love, and for understanding. This story is a commentary on age and love just as much as it is a ticket to another era.
Sifting through the various characters’ journeys (Rosie, the elephant included) was like watching an old film – the type that is sepia colors and has scratches that run randomly through the scenes. There is no sound, just the images that dance and dazzle as they move across the screen. And almost without realizing it, I was carried away on that train that carried the Benzini Brothers’ ringmaster, Jacob’s beloved Marlena, Silver Star, and the rest of the crew to dusty towns across the United States….
“Water for Elephants” is not must-read to me. It earns the high rating for quality of writing, attention to detail, and for masterful narrative rather than pure enjoyability. I think though, that I am in the minority when I say that it is not exceptional. If you’re going to see the move, do yourself a favor and read the book. It is worth appreciating before the story slips loudly into a theatre near you.

1 comment:

kate said...

i am right in the minority with you - i enjoyed the book, but was not as impressed as i thought i would be. i'm looking forward to the movie though!