30 DBC: Day 2

Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times


There are actually quite a number of books that would fill this spot, as I often find that I am perfectly content to read books over and over. However, looking at the other questions on the list, the first few thoughts on books to put up today would also be my answer to other questions (one of them tomorrow.)

I adore Water for Elephants. I did a book review of it a while ago on another site, which I think acurately describes my feelings on it.

Water for Elephants is one of those rare film adaptations that really works. While some things are different, Robert Pattinson doesn’t have red hair, for example, they capture the essence and plot of the book very well. What the film cannot capture, however, as not many films can, is the glow of excitement you get reading this book. It is one of those books that you just cannot put down.

My platitudes don’t hold their interest and I can hardly blame them for that. My real stories are all out of date. So what if I can speak firsthand about the Spanish flu, the advent of the automobile, world wars, cold wars, guerrilla wars, and Sputnik — that’s all ancient history now. But what else do I have to offer? Nothing happens to me anymore. That’s the reality of getting old, and I guess that’s really the crux of the matter. I’m not ready to be old yet.

It is clear not only from the narrative, but from the excerpts of true stories at the end of the novel, that Sara Gruen was meticulous in her research. This shines through into every passage of the book, from the description of the Benzini Brothers train to the interaction between characters, whether human or not.

I open the orangutan’s door and set a pan of fruits, vegetables, and nuts on the floor. As I close it, her long arm reaches through the bars. She points at an orange in another pan.
‘That? You want that?’
She continues to point, blinking at me with close-set eyes. Her features are concave, her face a wide platter fringed with red hair. She’s the most outrageous and beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
‘Here,’ I say, handing her the orange. ‘You can have it.’
She takes it and sets it on the floor. Then she reaches out again. After several seconds of serious misgivings, I hold out my hand. She wraps her long fingers around it, then lets go. She sits on her haunches and peels her orange.
I stare in amazement. She was thanking me.

Written in a first person narrative, Water for Elephants truly sucks you in to the world that has been created. Told by the perspective of Jacob Jankowski, both as a 90 (or is it 93?) year old patient in a nursing home and also as a man in his early twenties in the era of Circus trains. Jacob’s awe at the circus inspires the reader’s awe, and the tribulations he faces sends shivers down your own spine.

“With a secret like that, at some point the secret itself becomes irrelevant. The fact that you kept it does not.”

What is best about Water for Elephants is that Sara Gruen was not afraid to be sexual, even in the almost grotesque way it can sometimes be for the inexperienced. Nor is she afraid to write out the violence or despicable acts of the era and sometimes find the humour in them. Her brutal honesty of the types of things that happened in this era, in this life, is refreshingly open and invigorating.

“We traveled for two weeks with a pickled hippo.”

An easy to read novel, Sara Gruen does the era, the magical aura of the circus, and her entrancing plot, complete and utter justice.


About chelecooke

Self-Published author of the Out of Orbit series and the Teeth series. UCL Residence Assistant, obsessive cross stitcher, avid reader and TV show watcher.
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