Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

2015-03-10 18.59.29Please don’t be put off by the, frankly awful, cover; this book is actually worth reading.  It is quite a fun book about a bereaved almost graduate who flees his finals and ends up accidentally part of a circus. It is full of quirky insights into circus life – the wide gulf between performers and the other circus workers, the brutal approach to dealing with circus members who have outlived their welcome and, of course, the challenges of and approaches to training elephants.

The story is told in flashback from the point of view of the young almost-graduate who is now ninety, or ninety-three, and has been put in a care home by his family.  Here he rails against the inhumanity of how he is treated and his determination to still be himself makes his story almost as interesting as the wild circus story from his youth.

The main story follows Jacob as he jumps on the circus train and then, when he lets it be known that he is a vet, is invited to join.  Here he meets the impossibly glamorous and inevitably married Marlene and sparks begin to fly.  Unfortunately Marlene’s husband is both Jacob’s boss and a paranoid schizophrenic, so I will leave you to imagine how that worked out for him.  The situation is worsened by the equally mad Uncle Al who runs the circus and takes a very utilitarian view life. He is quite happy to make some people unhappy for the greater good, and it is his view that he can’t do without Marlene’s husband, so anything that interferes with his happiness has to be stopped.

Anyway, the story is fun and rollicking and there are some really sweet moments with Rosie the elephant.  It is well worth a read, particularly if you are looking for something easy but interesting.  A good beach read or something to amuse you while convalescing.

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