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Culture Lust by Angela Carone

Book Review: Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

Austin Powers , when asked by Basil Exposition what the other thing was that scared him, replied:  "Carnies. Circus folk. Nomads, you know. Smell like cabbage. Small hands."  In the novel Water for Elephants , author Sara Gruen draws her circus folk with more precision and insight than Austin Powers, though he retains the obvious comic edge.  Local blogger Aaryn Belfer recommends Water for Elephants for Culture Lust readers.  She sent me her thoughts on the book.

Water for Elephants: A Review

by Aaryn Belfer


“Either there’s been an accident or there’s roadwork, because a gaggle of old ladies is glued to the window at the end of the hall like children or jailbirds. They’re spidery and frail, their hair is fine as mist. Most of them are a good decade younger than me, and this astounds me. Even as your body betrays you, your mind denies it.”

So says nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski, the curmudgeonly yet loveable protagonist who you can’t help but root for in Sara Gruen’s novel Water for Elephants.

The circus is in town and the tents are going up just outside the convalescent home.  Inside, the home’s residents have gathered by the window with walkers and wheelchairs, jockeying for the best view. Most of them are excited about an upcoming outing to the circus, which promises freedom from the bland, antiseptic confines of their day-to-day routine. But for Jacob, the circus view and the failings of his aging body spark a wellspring of memories that pour out during his less lucid moments. Or they may be his clearest moments. Both may be equally true.

Matthew from Hounslow
May 20, 2008 at 06:59 PM
This was a desperate time in American history, but also one that shows the strength of American determination, ingenuity and can-do spirit. I think that Water for Elephants shows both the best and worse of human characteristics that surface during bad times. It will be interesting to explore these reactions to the twists and turns of adversity and opportunity.