"I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful one-hundred percent"
My book club met for the first time this past Sunday. The fact that we were able to hold our little gathering outside, enjoying the prettiest day so far of 2009 was a good sign for things to come. We munched on delicious sandwiches, goodies and of course a little cranberry champagne. It turns out that pretty much everyone enjoyed Water for Elephants. So let's get to the official review.
Water for Elephants is a book you can get lost in. The book is written from two different perspectives: The young Jacob's experiences joining the circus and the old Jacob's life living in a nursing home. The "action" parts of the book all take place during young Jacob's time with the circus, involving a crazy love triangle and his passion for animals. However, the group agreed that Gruen's depth of writing shined much more when she was describing the older Jacob. I found myself laughing out lout at some of the parts in these sections. And you would think it would be easier for an author to go into vivid detail while describing the fun, colorful, sometimes dangerous circus, but this wasn't the case, in my opinion. I even found myself wanting to skip over some sections of detailed descriptions during the young Jacob's circus days. While it was evident she did much research, which was interesting, some of the other mundane aspects stayed that way as a result of her writing.
But then, just like that, you are taken back to the perspective of older Jacob and the writing allows you to really experience what he is feeling -- as he grows older and feels he is trapped in a body that doesn't fully represent who he is. And although my book club is full of mostly early-to-mid 20 somethings, we all agreed we were able to relate to his descriptions. So, Gruen was successful in relating something (aging in this case) to a group of young women -- something pretty out of our realm at this point and time at least. I think that is always the sign of a good writer. There were a few serious topics that Gruen touches on, but doesn't really go into great detail that we felt could have made the book even richer.
Overall though, I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to know a little more about the circus, likes a good love story or is an animal lover. I think above all else, this book takes a deep look into dealing with the aging process, and how you are never too old, or young for that matter, to do anything you want.