Water for Elephants: 24 Hour Fairy Tale

April 20, 2012 at 4:55 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Title: Water for Elephants

Author: Sara Gruen

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: I read from the Algonquin Books, a division of Workman Publishing, movie cover edition

Length: 445 pgs.

When I first see a book, I mentally catalogue it.  I see On What Grounds, Cleo Coyle, mystery by author, C’s.  I see On Art and Life, John Ruskin, philosophy by philosopher, R’s.  Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen, general fiction by author, G’s.  I see Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, general fiction by author, R’s.  I see Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, Amanda Foreman, History, British biographies by subject G’s.

At second glance, it becomes a more personal catalogue: bubble bath, afternoon, 24 hour, week, over time.

A bubble bath read is a Cleo Coyle Coffeehouse mystery series.  Roughly 200 pages, usually purchased in paperback format, I can read it in an hour to an hour and a half.  John Ruskin’s On Art and Life is part of my Penguin Great Ideas books collection, they are small, but involve a little more brain power than a fun, cozy mystery, I will spend an afternoon on one of these books.  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen? I saw ladies pick this up for their book clubs, I weighed it in my hands, and thought: I’ll read that… looks like a romantic 24 hour fairy tale.  You see the pattern.

Yet I waited.  I impulsively buy many things when it comes to books… bubble bath reads because I read them often; Great Ideas books because I collect them; week longs because work like Carlos Ruiz Zafon is heaven to me; history and science books because I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge.  But 24 hour reads get brushed under the rug fairly often.  They are often times catalogued as fluff I don’t have time for.

The movie came and went, the movie edition came by the hundreds.  Still, I passed it up.

Finally, my best friend bought a copy during a Valentine’s Event hosted at the Half Price Books in Humble (Buy your favorite love story, get a chance to win a dinner for two at Italiano’s).  Now, for a book reviewer, blogger, and aspiring novel writer, you’d think I had a best friend who reads with me.  You probably envision a girl that goes and gets coffee and pours over reading material only to gab about it later with her bestie.  Well, I have very close friends that I do that with, but Danielle isn’t one of them.  My best friend absorbs books on her own, stews over them in her mind, and then cherishes them and tries to not breathe a word of them with another soul lest she ruin the magic of the experience.  Point? She wont read with me.  But I found out what book she bought at that event, and I picked up a copy of my own on clearance.

24 hours of entertainment for 25 cents – heck yeah!

Now, granted, I wasn’t reading Water for Elephants for 24 hours straight.  Just between baby, husband, event planning, house cleaning, playdates, meals, emails, pampering, and dog walking, it took me 24 hours to finish it.  If however, you are going on a vacation and have a chance to read it all in one sitting… I HIGHLY recommend doing so.

The New York Times Book Review calls Water for Elephants “An enchanting escapist fairy tale” and despite the sociopathic husband of the love interest who gets off on beating animals and people and lording over a small community of travelling circus hooligans, it really is a bit of a fairy tale, and its definitely an escape from your own reality.

Water for Elephants reads a bit like a Kate Morton novel, but at a quicker pace, with lots of layers, old age, storytelling, and flashbacks.  Unlike Kate Morton, this first person narrative is written from the perspective of the man in the saga – rather than aged ladies.  Where Kate Morton’s fabulous books strike me as having a very female target audience, I feel that marketed a bit differently, Sara Gruen has the potential to engross a population of male readers who have missed out under the impression that this fairy tale is a romance novel.

Gruen has done extensive research into depression era, of circuses, and of elephants, and it shows.  Although Water for Elephants is about two people finding their fairy tale life in the midst of harsh circumstances, its ultimately the greatest coming of age story I’ve read in a long time.  You’ve got a virginal college boy experiencing the death of his parents and loss of all his future plans, running away to join the circus, telling you the story of his life, all his trials and tribulations, from a nursing home at age ninety – or ninety three.  From becoming room mates with a dwarf, losing his virginity, learning the fine art of train hopping, planning a murder, witnessing a murder, and falling in love, and becoming an unsung hero, Gruen leads you effortlessly through the life of an ex-circus vet, and its wonderful.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but when I do, I’ll tell you all what I think.


  1. Shelly V. said,

    I’ll be honest… I haven’t had to time to read many of these posts yet…. but reading this just sounds like you talking. I love it. ❤

  2. Book to Film Fail « Anakalian Whims said,

    […] my Water for Elephants review? I loved the book.  It was wonderful.  Read it in one day, and thought it was lovely.  It was […]

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