When I first picked up this book to read, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I’m not exactly keen on elephants so I wasn’t sure that a book on elephants was really my speed. I read the book anyway only to discover that it’s not really about elephants (though there is a elephant in the story) but about a beautiful and tearful love story.
Jacob, an elderly man living in an old-age home, relives the glory days in his head when he became a vet in a travelling circus. Jacob remembers the story of his falling in love with a beautiful circus performer and the elephant she performs with. But circus-life is a strange mixture of pleasure and torture for Jacob and he’s never sure of whether he will when the girl of his dreams.
In My Humble Opinion:
Even with the elephant, the story of Jacobs journey is both sad and beautiful. Jacob remembers some of the most painful and beautiful experiences of his life while the fact that they are all only memories is also rather painful. I’ not one to cry over a story but I nearly did in this one as I pitied Jacob. I must admit, the story did not change my opinion on elephants since the elephant is rather scary. But, her actions, while brutal, were justified and rather true to animal nature.
What also interested me was the circus history veiling the whole story. A whole other lifestyle is described through the book. The hierarchies in the circus and what treatment each level received. The way they lived on trains and in tents. How, unlike most might consider, the circus was not like a great sharing family but like a business. And also some of the more unsavoury aspects of the life of a circus performer that I shan’t mention because it may spoil the book for you. The unsavoury aspects are not very pleasant but do add an aspect of authenticity to the story making it seem absolutely real and true which adds to the beauty of Jacob’s pleasure and the sadness of his pain.
Water for Elephants has of course been made into a rather famous motion picture starring creepy vampire guy Robert Pattinson (by the way, you won’t be reading any reviews on Twilight any time soon) and Reese Whitherspoon. I haven’t seen the film myself but as I understand, a few of the semi-minor characters have been excluded from the film or have been combined with other characters. Thinking about the book, this can only but take away from the story because those characters are necessary to the plot (they wouldn’t e included in the book if they weren’t).
At some stage, I’d like to see the movie just to gauge whether the story is still as rivetting, beautiful and sad.
All in all, for those of you who like elephants and those of you who don’t, this book is beautiful and painful, full of joy and sadness, a must-read for all of you who love love, adventure, history and human (and animal) nature.