After years of thinking about reading "Water For Elephants", I finally got around to it. It was not for a lack of interest, because the subject matter had always intrigued me. Pundits heaped praise on the peice, author Sara Gruen had won numerous awards for her effort when the book was published in 2006. Keep in mind, I did virutally no pleasure reading in the years 2006-2010. I started reading again in 2010, and eventually I found the book on a library shelf last week. If a book is interested and it is able to capture my interest, I usually complete it quickly. I finished this 420 page tome in 6 days, and saved the book from Asher's destructive grasp.
Having recieved the official Hollywood treatment last year with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson in the lead roles, likely anyone reading this has at least heard of the movie, the book or the story itself. The book is an exotic twist on the classic love story. The female of interest, Marlena, is young but experienced beyond her years. She is married to an older man, one who controls her through fear and intimidation. Jacob is a young man, who was nearing completion of veteranarian school. He experiences a great personal tragedy and ends up in the bleak situation. Running away from his problems, he inadvertently ends up joining a train circus where is lauded as a veteranarian despite his insistance to the contrary.
The story develops as a significant rift develops between Jacob and Marlena's husband August. This rift is strengthened when Jacob's developing affection for Marlena becomes more obvious and August, ever one to be jealous begins to loathe Jacob for it. Marlena is very aloof throughout, and it not readily apparent whether her affection for Jacob is anything more then a desire for friendship. It is eventually revealed that she lives in fear of August on a daily basis, his suffering from schizophrenia being a main cause. As the story ramps up August eventually loses control, as he bursts in on Marlena and Jacob setting up a celebration for him, and accuses them of sleeping together. A huge fist fight insues, leaving both Jacob and August a bloody mess. Jacob gets the spoils as he protects Marlena and wins her favour. In an ironic twist, they sleep together shortly after, and her feelings for Jacob are confirmed. The climax comes as the two lovers try to escape the circus with little money. They want to save their friends Walter and Camel as well, but they are met with a violent end. Some men who had been thrown from the train return to create an animal stampede that effectively ruins the circus and provides Jacob and Marlena with their way out. In all, an excellent tale that kept me guessing throughout.
I have read 4 books so far this year, and without question this was the best one. The book I enjoyed the most out of those I have read in recent years was "The Boy in the Moon" by Ian Brown, but "Water For Elephants" ranks solidly in my top five.