Friday, November 23, 2007

Water for elephants

I wasn't sure that I'd like WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, c2006, ISBN 978-1-56512-499-8) because it's not a thriller/suspense but I thought I'd give it a shot because many of my patrons were raving about it and I'm glad I did.
The story is told in flashbacks by Jacob Jankowski, the main character who is presently living in a nursing home at the age of 90 or 93, but lived the life of a traveling circus veterinarian during the great Depression in his 20's.
The first sentence is:

Only three people are left under the red and white awning of the grease tent: Grady, me, and the fry cook.

When Jacob's parents die in a car accident, Jacob leaves Cornell just before sitting down for his final exams and jumps the rails to land on board a train of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth where he becomes the working vet for the circus menagerie. While there he meets and falls for the married Marlena, the equestrian star, and her cruel husband, August. And last but not least, Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the show's last hope.
What I found myself enjoying most was the jargon of the circus and the lush setting painted by the author. I could imagine being at the circus during its height in the 1920's, the sideshows and the animal shows. This was a spectacular read!

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