Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is a Keeper

I am a sucker for pretty book covers.
(Mr. C. says this is a massive understatement.)

Basically, a publisher could print the lamest book in the world and I could know that it's the lamest book in the world, but if it had a pretty cover, I would daydream about buying it long after I saw it in the store (if I hadn't already bought it). Which, I'll be honest, is one of my biggest downfalls when I purchase books on a whim. I just like pretty covers! But hey! At least I can admit it.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I love the cover to Water for Elephants but, more importantly, I love the spine.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Luckily, I didn't purchase this book on a whim. I had heard great things about it and, when we were in California last year, I saw it at a bookshop, saw that it had a pretty cover and a few seconds later, Mr. C. took it up to the cash register. Like I always am when we buy new books, I was giddy with excitement and ten minutes after I spotted Water for Elephants, we walked out the doors and onto the sidewalk, Sara Gruen's book tucked inside my purse as it bounced against my bulbous belly.

Then I took it home and that's where our problems started. I had the hardest time getting into this book! The beginning (for me) was horribly sluggish and there's a fairly grotesque sexual scene that happens early on and, being pregnant and easy to gross out, I put the book down and walked away.

Please Hold Me
[One of the times I tried to read this book but did other things instead.]

But, as often happens with pretty books, I noticed the cover nearly every time I walked by the bookcase it was housed in. I pulled it out six or seven different times, thinking "This time! This will be the one!" Only it wasn't the one. Then, two weeks ago, after reading a whole bundle of Young Adult romance novels, I decided it was time.

And I sure am glad it was time.

Water for Elephants centers on Jacob Jankowski, a man in his early twenties who, by the second chapter, loses everything he has, jumps a train, and lands in the middle of a circus (literally). The novel switches back and forth in time from Jacob as a young man to Jacob as a ninety (or is he ninety three?) year old man stuck in an assisted living facility. Water for Elephants also features crazy bosses, drunk working men, an elephant, an orangutan, and a whole bunch of drama.

I haven't seen the movie version of this yet, so I'm not sure if the romance is the main focus of the movie, but I loved that, even though the romance was the driving force of the book, I was just as interested in the business drama, the friendships, and the boss trouble that Jacob dealt with as I was with his love life... and maybe even more so. I loved that Gruen set Water for Elephants in the Depression Era without spending pages giving bad history lessons on what was going on in the rest of America and, most importantly, I loved that, once this book gains momentum, I felt like I was trying to stop a train each time I put the book down. I loved it, stayed up late to finish it, and woke up thinking about it the next morning. Which, in my book, means that this novel is a keeper (even if it had an ugly cover, which it doesn't).

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Oh! And the circus photographs in the book don't hurt.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Nor does the awesome last-thing-I-predicted ending, either.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Like I said, this book is really hard to get into at first, but once it gets going, it is fantastic! Have any of y'all seen the movie? And if you've read the book, was it as good as the novel or was it like watching a Twilight prequel?

Next week I will be writing about Emma by Jane Austen.