Evan’s ESS = 7 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 7.5 out of 10
Content = R (Adult Content, Violence, Sexual Contact, Sexual Tension, Language, Elephants)
Why: We’ve (Evan) been hearing the hype and yet somehow managed to push Water for Elephants off until just last month. Not a bad read, but let’s just say we’re not doing cartwheels. That’s not to say that we couldn’t execute the maneuver with breathtaking precision if we were so inclined... We’re just say’in.
Presented through a series of flashbacks by a cantankerous nursing home patient, the story begins as Jacob Jankowski is confronted with the death of his parents. Hastily, he drops out of school and flees to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. After a fair amount of drama, Jacob is offered a position as vet with the traveling circus. What follows is, well... a circus – especially when Rosie shuffles into town...
Honestly, we could go either way on this novel. For some reason we are drawn to the enchantment of the circus, so the setting was interesting enough to keep our attention. We thought the novel captured the spirit of the traveling circus and pulled the curtain on some of the more sleazy aspects of the business. The treatment of the animals was at times appalling as was the practice of chucking circus workers from moving trains.
In many ways, the characters were almost as entertaining as the circus. Jacob was complex and real. The lovely Marlena was just as intriguing and provocative in real life as she was in her animal act. The head animal trainer was pretty much a complete jerk-bag throughout. Rosie the Elephant was incredibly enduring and a formidable animal character. And the bearded lady... yeesh.
So why didn’t we love this book? We’re not sure. It just felt like something was missing. Maybe there was too much bitterness and anger in the narrator or maybe the relationship between Jacob and Marlena could have been developed more or maybe a high flying monkey act should have been incorporated into the performance. Whatever the case Water for Elephants was a good book, but not great, and definitely not in our top 10 for 2011 (which will be announced with much hoopla in the next week(s)).
Finally, in order to hastily complete our commitment in the Books to Movie Challenge, the following paragraph will be dedicated to the movie version of Water for Elephants. Our thoughts about the movie are eerily similar to the book. The movie did a really good job of capturing people’s fascination with the traveling circus. We longed to be standing right next to all the townspeople when the tents were being set up. In general the movie stayed true to the book, although we thought the absence of Uncle Al, who was the circus owner in the book, was a big miss. The big winner (no pun intended) in both the book, and the movie, was Rosie. Can we please have a ginormous protective and lovable elephant for Christmas? You can keep the hippopotamus!