Thursday, 9 October 2014
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
As always, I bought this book when it was surrounded by a lot of hype but then failed to read it in a timely manner. I also failed to see the film, so I went into Water for Elephants with completely fresh eyes. I was expecting a light, sentimental type read, and that's exactly what it was. Even though Water for Elephants discusses some heavier themes such as animal cruelty, murder and the brutality of circus life, it does so in a Spielberg-esque way that left me in no doubt that things would be OK in the end. It's like life without the sharp edges, and it makes for comfortable if not challenging reading.
My favourite element of Water for Elephants was the setting. I'm not surprised this novel was turned into a film, as it's so visually evocative of both the time period and of the circus. I could almost smell the popcorn and taste the excitement that the circus bought to the dreary towns it stopped in. I also really enjoyed the character of Marlena, who had more guts than I initially took her to have. The bits dealing with Rosie and the other animals made me want to try Gruen's novel Ape House, as I liked the way the animals were characters in themselves.
However, there were some flaws. Jacob falls in love with a married woman, which could have made for some interesting complexity in the novel, but Gruen shies away from this by making her husband to be a bad guy. This seemed a little too convenient for the plot. As I mentioned above, there's never any doubt that things will end well for Jacob, and this takes away some of the tension. Despite this, Water for Elephants is a really fun, escapist read. I loved immersing myself in the world of the circus for a while.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 2006
Edition Read: Two Roads, 2011
Score: 3.5 out of 5