Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
What got me about this book right from the start was the writing. It was incredible, and I was completely drawn into the story within the first twenty pages. The prose was wonderful. So touching, witty, sad, and smart, all at the same time.
The story starts off with ninety (or is it ninety-three?) year old Jacob in an assisted living home. It displays a man who while he may be failing physically, but he's holding on strong mentally. This 90 something year old Jacob is what drew me in the most right from the beginning, and I love how we continued to get these flash forwards throughout the entire book. These scenes resonated with me a lot, because it reminded me a lot of my grandmother, who passed away two years ago at the age of 91.
The majority of the book takes place when Jacob is twenty two, after fate threw him on the train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. And from there we are thrust into the world of a traveling circus during the early 1930s. The setting and time era were one of my favorite aspects of the novel. I love stories that were written during the Depression, and it was so authentic and just incredibly well done.
And, wow the characterization! Jacob is someone who you sympathize with and love right from the start. August is the perfect antagonist. I wished that Marlena was a stronger female, but being that it was set in the 1930s, I understand why she would have to be "weaker." Every character was so three-dimensional.
And then, there's Rosie. Adorable, hilarious Rosie. My friends have all read the book, and when we talked about it, we were all "I want a Rosie." The elephant easily made the book.
The book is full of twists and turns, passion and heartbreak, and the power of undying love.
Five out of Five Stars for Water for Elephants!
While I'm here, I just thought I'd briefly touch upon the movie, since I have seen it. It was one of the better done book-to-movie attempts. The acting was solid throughout, Pattinson giving a great performance in my opinion. Reece Witherspoon looked stunning... though whenever she spoke all I thought of was Elle Woods, haha! The set and the outfits were awesome, and all the animals were a joy to see. Love Rosie! It stayed pretty true to the book, and all the changes that were made did make sense. It's definitely worth checking out!