I just finished reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. The story switches between current day Jacob Jankowski, a 90 or 93 year old man who lives in a nursing home and the Jacob of the past, a 23 year old almost graduate of Cornell who joins the Benzini Brothers Circus during the Great Depression after his parents die in a car crash. The story focuses mostly on 23 year old Jacob and the odd assortment of characters of the circus but I wish 90 or 93 year old Jacob ( he can’t exactly remember what year it is, so he can’t remember how old is is either) had gotten more page time, I think there was more story to explore there and instead it just fell through the cracks.
It was a really hard book for me to get through because of the amount of animal abuse depicted. I love animals and it’s really hard for me to hear of animals being abused (even fictitious animals). I understand why some of the abuse scenes were in the book- it showed how mean and evil some of the characters were, and it showed how kind and good hearted some of the characters were.
Some of the abuse scenes, o.k, a lot of the abuse scenes, just seemed like filler. The characters have been set up, we like the characters that we’re supposed to like and hate the characters we’re supposed to hate so if that abuse scene isn’t going to advance the plot what’s it doing there? Same reason people crane their necks when passing a car crash, or watch UFC on t.v. Some people like dramatic, violent gore in their entertainment.
Personally, I think a quality writer can write a good book without stooping to that level. I’m not saying every scene where an animal was hurt was unnecessary, but several were, and that’s just not entertaining to me. It takes me out of the story too much.The rest of the story was good- characters were well written, there were several spots in the book that I was absolutely engrossed in the book but then the story would falter and the spell was broken.
I saw the movie Water for Elephants with Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon when it first came out, and I really enjoyed it. Maybe I should have read the book before watching the movie but I have to say that I really enjoyed the movie far more than the book, and that hardly ever happens with me. So if anyone is trying to decide to read the book before or after seeing the movie I say skip the book entirely and just watch the movie- it’s much better.