Wednesday, March 14, 2007
An Elephant's Faithful -- One Hundred Percent!
Water for Elephants: Sara Gruen: Gruen uses this quotation from Dr. Suess' Horton Hatches the Egg as an opening to her original, insightful, sad and funny novel about life in the circus during the Great Depression. When we meet the main character, Jacob Jankowski, he's 93 (or maybe 91), living in a nursing home. The first-person point of view switches back and forth between Jankowski's life in the circus and his life now, the different eras linked by the circus that Jacob is looking forward to attending with his family. As he's waiting for them, he remembers what working in "the show" was like when he was the vet for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. We learn of the two loves of his life, Marlena and Rosie, the elephant. From the prologue, the reader learns that Jacob is keeping a secret about his time in the circus, so how, when and if it comes out is part of our interest in the story, but the characters are what really keep us reading. The marginal characters in Gruen's novel, such as Kinko, the dwarf, and Rosemary, his nurse, are as interesting as the major characters. I know that I for one, thanks to Kinko, will never look at Olive Oyl the same way again. I loved this book and, since it's not something I'd normally pick up, need to thank half the reading blogosphere for loving it as well and recommending it. I'll read it again some day, and I can't think of higher praise for a book.