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Summary

Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. In the Depression era, Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers' "Most Spectacular Show on Earth". There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world: Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and Rosie, the seemingly untrainable elephant Jacob cares for.

©2006 Sara Gruen (P)2006 HighBridge Company

Critic reviews

"This marvelously exciting and satisfying book has been given the engaging audio production it deserves." ( Audiofile)
" Water for Elephants is fun, sweet and thrilling and will pull you into the mysterious life of the circus so far that you won't want to leave." ( Guardian)

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What listeners say about Water for Elephants

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A great story

Really enjoyed the story, I didn't immediately like the voice of older Jacob, but when I got used to it, it was fine. I liked the character and he seemed more realistic for being grumpy and angry, rather than a lovely old man!

I found random musical bits annoying, distracting and unnecessary.They started too early at the end of the chapter and I could not work out why they were at the end of some chapters and not to others.

All in all I would recommend people read this just be prepared for random annoying music!

6 people found this helpful

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excellent story, well told.


this was a superb tale, well crafted and smoothly narrated . I was transported to the circus and felt the graft and grime of the reality of a travelling show years ago, while being immersed in a love story.

6 people found this helpful

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loved it

this made a nice change from the novels I usually read. It was a good story, well told. I cared about the characters which, for me is essential.

3 people found this helpful

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For anyone, and definitely for everyone under 30!

Loved this story on so many levels. For lovers, dreamers, animal lovers and anyone who looks after the elderly or considering a nursing home for their parents. An in-depth understanding of the elderly mind. Laughed out loud, cried in sadness and dreamed along with him...

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting story but difficult descriptions of animal cruelty

Overall, I found this story engaging and entertaining. Set during the Depression, it’s a complex tale if travelling life as part of a circus. The central characters are well depicted; the ringmaster Augustus is easy to picture as the assertive bully who runs the show. Life is hard and there’s a real sense of deprivation as the show moves around the country.

Overall, I enjoyed the central story but found the depiction of animal cruelty very difficult to listen to. I know circuses of this type are a thing of the past and I don’t usually shy away from brutal reality, but the way Rosie was treated was harrowing, the more so because of her intelligence.

1 person found this helpful

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Unusual setting, story told through thought and dialogue

A piece of history. Set in 1930’s American Depression, a story of how people find a way to live with their values and various illnesses and setbacks.
How they learn to understand each other... with violence always at the edge of things as alcohol and. business struggles affect their lives.
Beautifully told.

1 person found this helpful

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First-class

As good as it gets. I enjoyed every minute. An excellent finale was the cream on the cake.

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Great book. A definite must.

What did you like most about Water for Elephants?

I can't choose one aspect of this book. I thought both narrators were brilliant, the way the story switched between the young and old man were exceptionally good. I couldn't put it down.

What other book might you compare Water for Elephants to, and why?

I can't think of another book which so brilliantly juxtaposes two periods in a life. The handling of the old Jacob was particularly sensitive.

Have you listened to any of David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I haven't heard either of them before. I think they were both first class. John Randolph Jones made me cry more than once.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

From the beginning there were many and the ending was very good as well.

Any additional comments?

Read it and love it - although I know nothing about circus life it seemed very authentic and dreadful.



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Brilliant Story loved it!

A full and unexpected story. Full of the joys and tribulations of life. Completely enjoyed it. Expertly narrated. Highly recommended.

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Fabulous Audiobook

A wonderful story and thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook which was beautifully narrated. Highly Recommend.