Monday, July 25, 2011

Water for Elephants

Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

More evidence that just because a book is popular doesn't make it good (or worth reading). Ok, that's a bit harsh but I have to say straight up that Water for Elephants has some seriously inappropriate content. Two, maybe three scenes that very sexually explicit, plus a host of swearing (plenty of "f" words included). This kind of content is not really my style (and the reason why I usually stick to children's and YA lit). I honestly think the story could have been just as compelling, interesting, and historical without including all the rubbishy bits.

I feel like my brain could use a good scrubbing.

Despite that, I did like the story and even the characters. I knew I was going to like Jacob Jankowski right away because he was seriously funny in the intro given by his 90 year-old self (or 93; he can't quite remember which). The story moves right along and the setting is interesting - taking place during the Depression. All the details about circus life were fascinating, even though they occasionally showed the darker side of things. I loved the way the book ended. But I think I could have done without reading this book. I wouldn't say that it has added anything worthwhile to my life.

Anyone seen the movie? Thoughts?


The Gilley's said...

I just saw the movie last week, and really liked it. I didn't feel like the movie showed that much of the dark side of the circus, but the ringleader was horrible! It moved me to tears, and had such a hppy ending. Definetaly worth a red box rental...

Rochelle said...

I bought this book on itunes for my trip to North Carolina with the kids. The plan was for them to watch their movie with headphones so that I could enjoy this book on cd. Not so much. I didn't make it 10 minutes in and had to turn it off because of the swearing! I was so mad that I paid money for it.