I really really wanted to like this one, especially because its the first time my sister and I read the same book at the same time. She picked it out and urged me to move it up on my reading list. So, I feel awful that she loved it and I didn’t–especially because she enjoyed it for the same reasons that I didnt–mostly the writing.
Water for Elephants is the story of an elderly man, Jacob, who reflects upon his time as the animal vet at a struggling circus during the depression era. He joins the circus after a disasterous moment in his personal life when he has nowhere else to turn. He is taken under the wing of several people in the circus, including August who is the animal handler and his wife Marlena who performs with the animals. As the prologue details, the story is about a murder that still haunts Jacob–a murder that he has never discussed with anyone.
The prologue certainly gained my attention, but unfortunately my attention began to wane quickly thereafter. The story was fine, but it wasn’t gripping or riveting or compelling–any of the adjectives that have been used to describe the book. Everything juicy was in the first 5 pages of the book–which also meant that the reader knows what is going to happen at the end.
Basically the novel was utterly anticlimatic. I didn’t feel that the characters were well developed–many of the supporting characters blended together–and the writing was sparse and bland. Urg, I hate writing stuff like this about a book!! After finishing the book, I read some of the author’s interview in the back of the book and noticed that she has done a lot of technical writing, and it fit with her style. I expect writing to be rich (not over the top!), but even the dialogue (of which there is a lot) was without feeling and predictable.
Would I recommend it? It’s a pleasant enough story, certainly very easy to read, but there’s not a whole lot there. But I didn’t dislike it–just didn’t love it. The pictures are fabulous and I enjoyed reading about the circus, especially in the 1930s when times were tough, people got thrown off the train, the workers went weeks without pay, and prohibition and bootleg whiskey were in full swing. And who could forget Rosie, the mysterious and loveable elephant. Pick it up if you’re looking for something light. And after browsing Amazon reviews, I’m definitely in the minority with this one.