As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was ultimately their only hope for survival.
(Image and Description from Goodreads.com)
I really enjoyed it (and this came as a huge surprise to me).
I have never read anything, fictional or otherwise, about circuses or depression era America (although I am a huge lover of films like ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ etc and it has nothing to do with Charlton Heston…Ok, maybe a little) so it was a huge eye opener. There was definitely a dark side to the bright costumes and candyfloss and I don’t think I will ever look at Dumbo the same way again.
I loved the insight to the times as well as the flashes of Jacob’s life in the nursing home and his frustration and anger at his situation. This book did not just deal with the happily ever after and life of a young man in his prime but seventy years on too.
The whole book was like I had been given a backstage, nothing bared pass to the circus (well, the 1930s circus anyway) and I enjoyed every page of it.
There were definitely some things that made me a bit squirmy.
There is animal abuse that we know is going on and a few times when we ‘see’ it happening.
Mental and emotional abuse is also touched on (but violence and abuse towards women always makes me uncomfortable in books even though it wasn't very much IN your face, I was aware something more was going on).
I thoroughly enjoyed Water for Elephants. It caught me up and I was finished before I knew it. I am really glad I got around to reading it.
“She looks at her watch – a real one, with arms. Those digital ones came and went, thank God. When will people learn that just because you can make something it doesn’t mean you should?”