Monday, October 02, 2006

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

The Basics: Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen, 2006, 335 pages, hardcover

How I found it: I had been given a gift certificate to a local bookstore. I went in one day on a 30 minute break from work with the mission of buying a book since the gift certificate was about to expire. I found this one flagged on the shelf as being both Canadian and recommended by staff.

What's it about?: An old man in a seniors centre reflects on his life as a vet with a travelling circus. The story covers a few months in his early 20s when he finds his calling with exotic animals and also finds the two loves of his life, Rosie, an elephant, and Marlena, her trainer. It's a very plot-driven story about love and loss with lots of risks.

Did I like it?: I loved this book. Despite being super-busy, I read it in about three days. It made my cry more than once, which is almost without precedent. Gruen rights well and without pretention. She has done an incredible amount of research for this book and it shows. You are completely drawn inside the world of the circus and the mindset of an elephant. I was quite upset when I finished this book, simply because it was over and I had enjoyed reading it so much.

Will you like it?: I don't know how you could dislike this book. It is a great and touching story and a quick and easy read. This one comes highly recommended.

But don't take my word for it: A review from, a more negative one from, the usual reader reviews from, and one more from


  1. Hi Taryn,

    I'm loving your reviews and have been meaning to throw a few suggestions your way for quite awhile, probably since your Jane magazine review (and hey, are you familiar with the phenomenon that was Sassy magazine? It was the magazine of my (teenaged) youth!).

    Anyway, my recommendations, based on your latest read: The Final Confession of Mabel Stark, by Robert Hough (I love this book, and it's circus-y in theme as well), and The White Bone, by Barbara Gowdy. If you're at all into Canadian fiction (and I know you are), Barbara Gowdy is a writer whose work you must know! She is exceptional, and The White Bone is from the viewpoint elephant.

    Hope you're well! Enjoy!


  2. Anonymous1:15 p.m. ADT

    hi taryn, just wondering if you have read the golden spruce by john vaillant and what you thought of it. sorry i don't have your email address or i would ask you directly...


  3. Lavina

    I have read the Golden Spruce. I read it in London on vacation last Febrary in about 2 days. I found it really interesting although the guy was a little nuts.

    Have you read it?


  4. Anonymous7:22 p.m. ADT

    i have been slowly picking my way thru it, i don't find it a page turner. curiously it was given to me by a psychiatrist! am currently reading nan mooney's i can't beleive she did that.