Sara Gruen Water for Elephants

ISBN 13: 9781565124998

Water for Elephants

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9781565124998: Water for Elephants
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Over 10,000,000 copies in print worldwide
#1 New York Times Bestseller
A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
A Wall Street Journal Bestseller
A Newsday Favorite Book of 2006
A USA Today Bestseller
A Major Motion Picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz

Jacob Janowski's luck had run out―orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was the Great Depression and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. There he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but brutal animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this group of misfits was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Review:

" [This] sprightly tale has a ringmaster's crowd-pleasing pace."
-- "Entertainment Weekly"

" Novelist Gruen unearths a lost world with her rich and surprising portrayal of life in a traveling circus in the '30s. An emotional tale that will please history buffs-- and others." "-- People"

" 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."
-- "Washington Post"

" At its finest, "Water for Elephants" resembles stealth hits like 'The Giant's House, ' by Elizabeth McCracken, or 'The Lovely Bones, ' by Alice Sebold, books that combine outrageously whimsical premises with crowd-pleasing romanticism. . . . Black-and-white photographs of real American circus scenes from the first half of the century are interspersed throughout the novel, and they brilliantly evoke the dignified power contained in the quieter moments of this unusual brotherhood. . . . With a showman's expert timing, [Gruen] saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale."
-- "New York Times" Book Review

"[This] sprightly tale has a ringmaster's crowd-pleasing pace."
--"Entertainment Weekly"

"Novelist Gruen unearths a lost world with her rich and surprising portrayal of life in a traveling circus in the '30s. An emotional tale that will please history buffs--and others." "--People"

"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."
--"Washington Post"

"At its finest, "Water for Elephants" resembles stealth hits like 'The Giant's House, ' by Elizabeth McCracken, or 'The Lovely Bones, ' by Alice Sebold, books that combine outrageously whimsical premises with crowd-pleasing romanticism. . . . Black-and-white photographs of real American circus scenes from the first half of the century are interspersed throughout the novel, and they brilliantly evoke the dignified power contained in the quieter moments of this unusual brotherhood. . . . With a showman's expert timing, [Gruen] saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale."
--"New York Times" Book Review

When his parents are killed in a traffic accident, Jacob Jankowski hops a train after walking out on his final exams at Cornell, where he had hoped to earn a veterinary degree. The train turns out to be a circus train, and since it's the Depression, when someone with a vet's skills can attach himself to a circus if he's lucky, Jacob soon finds himself involved with the animal acts-specifically with the beautiful young Marlena, the horse rider, and her husband, August. Jacob falls for Marlena immediately, and the ensuing triangle is at the center of this novel, which follows the circus across the states. Jacob learns the ins and outs of circus life, in this case under the rule of the treacherous Uncle Al, who cheats the workers and deals roughly with patrons who complain about blatant false advertising and rip-off exhibits. Jacob and Marlena are attracted to each other, but their relationship is fairly innocent until it becomes clear that August is not merely jealous but dangerously mentally deranged. Old-fashioned and endearing, this is an enjoyable, fast-paced story told by the older Jacob, now in his nineties in a nursing home. From the author of "Riding Lessons"; recommended for all libraries.--Jim Coan, SUNY College at Oneonta "Library Journal "

"For pure story, this colorful, headlong tale of a Depression-era circus simply can't be beat. Heroes, villains, romance, a wild-animal stampede! Big fun from page 1." Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly: "Best & Worst 2007""

From the Author:

The idea for this book came unexpectedly. I was a day away
from starting a different novel when the Chicago Tribune ran an article on
a photographer who followed and documented train circuses during the 1920s
and 1930s.

The photograph that accompanied the article was stunning - a detailed
panoramic that so fascinated me I immediately bought two books of old-time
circus photographs. By the time I thumbed through them, I was hooked. I
abandoned the other novel and dove into the world of the train circus.

I began by getting a bibliography from the archivist at Circus World in
Baraboo, Wisconsin. Most of the books were out of print, but I managed to
track them down online and through rare-book sellers. Within weeks I was
off to Sarasota, Florida, to visit the Ringling Circus Museum. I spent
three days crawling under circus wagons, peering inside the trunks stored
beneath them, and taking flash pictures to reveal the mysteries stashed in
unlit corners.

By the end of the first day, I was being shadowed. By the end of the third,
an employee approached me and asked what on earth I thought I was doing.
When I told her of my desire to write a novel set on a circus train, her
eyes lit up and she walked me through the entire museum, regaling me with a
rich oral history that was far more vivid than the information on the
posted placards, and that answered many of the questions I had scribbled in
my notebook.

The museum was selling duplicates of books in its collection, so I came
home poorer by several hundred dollars. Yet the more I read, the more aware
I became of just how much I still had to learn. Train circuses operated in
a distinct culture that had its own languages, its own traditions, and its
own laws. I also realized that there is a huge subculture of circus fans
who would know if I got something wrong.

I spent almost a year doing research, including hauling my family to every
circus within driving distance. I returned to Sarasota and brought home
more books. I went to Circus World, where I was taken into the elephant
enclosure and introduced to a beautiful fifty-three-year-old Asian elephant
named Barbara. I stood by her ten-foot-high shoulder, literally trembling
as I reached out to touch her. And finally, because I wanted to learn about
elephant body language, I went to the Kansas City Zoo with a former
elephant handler.

When it was time to start writing, my head was so full of details I
couldn't stand external stimulus. I asked my husband to move my desk into
our walk-in closet, covered the window, and wore noise-reduction
headphones. I spent much of the winter in that closet, weaving together the
things I had learned.

The history of the American circus is so rich that I plucked many of the
novel's most outrageous details from fact or anecdote (in circus history,
the line between the two is famously blurred). Among them are stories about
a hippo pickled in formaldehyde, a deceased four-hundred-pound "strong
lady" who was paraded around town in an elephant cage, an elephant who
repeatedly pulled up her stake and drank the lemonade intended for sale on
the midway, another elephant who ran off and was retrieved from a backyard
vegetable patch, and an ancient lion who got wedged beneath a sink along
with a restaurant employee, rendering them both too terrified to move. I
also incorporated the horrific and very real tragedy of Jamaica ginger
paralysis, a neurological disease caused by the consumption of adulterated
ginger extract that devastated the lives of approximately 100,000 Americans
between 1930 and 1931 and which is virtually forgotten today because most
of its victims lived on the fringes of society.

None of the characters in the novel is based on any one real person;
rather, they are a distillation of the many memorable performers and circus
workers I encountered during the course of my research. And then there is
Rosie, the elephant at the center of the novel; she became as real to me as
any living pachyderm could ever be.

I knew from the beginning that I had embarked on an adventure with this
book, but I didn't know the extent until the day I found myself
cold-calling a man who owns a sideshow and keeps human heads in his house.
And really, how often can you greet your spouse with the words,

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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