WHO’S READING WHAT . reader’s recommendations
Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen
New York : London: Hodder, 2007
Call No.: English GRU
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I’m a great fan of the novel, “Like Water For Chocolate”, and so, it’s no mystery that this title immediately grabbed my attention. Similar wording notwithstanding, I just couldn’t resist the image of a shiny, red tailcoat, extending an invitation to a story which went beyond my expectations.
Jacob Jankowski leads a sheltered life as a veterinary student when tragedy strikes suddenly. Left orphaned and penniless, he wanders aimlessly around the shattered remains of his old world. However, one fateful night, a new life beckons him on, in the form of the circus train. The circus train of Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, to be precise.
Thrust into a completely different world, Jacob has to learn to manage his way and crosses path with the various characters behind the circus charade; the ever charming but cunning ringleader, Uncle Al, who persuades Jacob to become the resident vet, the beautiful star of the equestrian act, Marlena and the magnetic yet wicked animal trainer, August.
With his status of resident vet, Jacob spends more time with the circus horses and can only admire Marlena from a distance. When Rosie, the elephant who would be Benzini Brothers’ salvation, is brought in, Jacob and Marlena grow even closer, with their shared affection for the gentle giant. And as August grows increasingly twisted in his ways towards people and animals alike, Marlena finds comfort in Jacob’s listening ear and companionship.
Retold in narratives from different eras, I got to experience the excitement of a nomadic circus life from the eyes of a young Jacob. With the bodily pains of the elderly Jacob, I also learnt the bitterness of how old age can sometimes break the spirit of a man, but not extinguish his burning passion for adventures. With these combined narratives, Jacob’s story is given a much stronger and authentic flavour to it. At times, I can almost taste the sweet candy corn in my mouth or even hear the faint echoes of the circus band.
When I picked up this title, I dove in anticipating more of a typical love story. But I find it’s more than a simple boy-meets-girl-and-gets-married story. It’s an unforgettable tale about overcoming great struggles to be with one you love, be it humankind or animal, and how lives are made that much more wonderful if you just have faith and trust in those surrounding you.
Contributed by Elizabeth Lee
.Have you read this book? Do you have something else to recommend?
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