“A piercing look at Depression-era circus life, where violence, laughter managed to coexist…Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants captures the sounds, smells and sights of the circus…Delicious.” – The Charlotte Observer
“You’ll get lost in the tatty glamour of Gruen’s meticulously researched world, from spangled equestrian pageantry and the sleazy side-show to an ill-fated night at a Chicago speak-easy.” – The Washington Post
Chapter One of Water for Elephants begins, “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.”
I haven’t seen the movie, but I read the book last year. If the movie (released April 2011) follows the book, it will be a great movie. Many chapters begin with an authentic black and white photograph from the period. It is a love story woven around a murder.
Jacob Jankowski is a young man with his career goal within reach when a tragedy sets him on a completely different road (or rather railroad ) and takes him all over the country traveling with a circus. He encounters all sorts of bums, freakish characters, circus animals and a dangerous love. And as the Minneapolis Star Tribune put it, “Gruen performs a double trick in her novel: She gives an engrossing picture of circus life as well as a taste of what it’s like to grow old.”
The movie came out this year and stars Robert Pattison as Jacob and Reese Witherspoon as the beautiful Marlena. Hal Holbrook is cast perfectly as Old Jacob. A trailer can be viewed at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). There is an authentic dark richness in the sense of the colors as if the shadows were hovering just outside the big top. The glamour is mirrored seductively in the glitter and lights of the center ring, then fades into dirty reality as the show is over and the crowds are gone. The smells are sweaty and sensual. The menagerie provides a dual background of innocent entertainment and animal cruelty.
I really must see the movie soon. As Dr. Seuss wrote in Horton Hatches an Egg, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant…An elephant’s faithful – one hundred per cent!”
This book proves it.