Water for Elephants ~ Sara Gruen

My reading goal this year is to read the majority of books written by female authors. I wrapped up reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen last night. I have not seen the movie, so I’m only reviewing the book.

I really enjoyed this story. The changes between present day Jacob and the Jacob of the past would occasionally cause me to reread a few parts to figure out where I was, but I think that is just my own distractions rather than the story flow. The characters were well thought out and actually pretty realistic. There were only a few things I thought could have been portrayed differently.

One being August and his mood swings. Using mental illness as an excuse to be violent was a tad appalling. August could have been portrayed as a snake who knew how to charm people but could turn on a dime. He was dangerous and deadly. He was possessive and easily angered but could quickly revert back to his charming self. I wouldn’t see this as a mental illness other than maybe a psychopath. His attitude toward Rosie was even more reason to believe he was psycho, not schizophrenic.

The other is I don’t agree with calling Marlena a mute heroine. She wouldn’t have had any courage or reason to leave August if it wasn’t for Jacob. She refused to divorce August because of the circus life and she just accepted her lot. This doesn’t make her a heroine. It makes her a woman who suffers from Battered Woman Syndrome. The only way I could see her as a true heroine was if the prologue matched up with the ending. She may have stood up to August a few times, and tried to separate herself from him, but it was only because she fell in love with Jacob that she did that. Any other time she made excuses for him.

I did enjoy Jacob’s back story, the circus life, and learning more about train circus’ back in the 1920’s. I loved how Rosie spoke only Polish and was so dang naughty it was funny. It was interesting to see how a college educated veterinarian ended up working for a traveling circus and how that one decision changed everything. I do highly recommend this book. I do want to see the movie, but I don’t like the disappointment that comes when the movie is nothing like the book. But, I am a huge Reese Witherspoon fan, so I may still watch it.

What are your thoughts on Water for Elephants?

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