Sunday, May 15, 2011

Water For Elephants

I promised myself I would read Water for Elephants more than a year ago. It's outside of my genre, and outside of my usual tastes, but for this book I'd make an exception.

First, because this NYT bestseller was written during November 2006. NaNoWriMo 2006. This isn't the first published novel from Sara Gruen that was written during the November frenzy, but it is the best known one - the go-to example when you're asked if anything is ever published from what 200,000 participants create every year. It is proof that, with hard work and a lot of editing, a NaNovel isn't always meant for the trash bin.

Second because they made a movie out of it. Now, that wouldn't mean much to me, but when I looked up the distribution and read 'Cristoph Waltz', it was a whole different beast. Ever since I saw Inglorious Basterds, I have an undying admiration for Hans Landa (as a character!) and Cristoph Waltz acting work.

So that's why I picked it up.

I wasn't disappointed.

Water for Elephants is a great book from beginning to end. You fall in love with grouchy Jankowski right away and follow him gleefully as he embark on the wild and dangerous life of American circus in the 30s. The circus is absolutely fascinating. I can't speak for accuracy, because I had little prior knowledge of the subject, but damn, it feels real. I rushed through the story, hardly capable of pausing.

My only tiny gripe is the prologue, and it should be noted that I don't usually have problem with prologues. It wasn't a backstory prologue. It was a prologue that's actually an important scene later on, and which reveals very important element.

I understand how this raises tension and questions. I see the point. As I reader, though, I prefer not to have a solid idea of where the main storyline is heading before it has even started.

Let's be honest, though. This is far from enough to ruin the experience. I'd readily recommend the novel to anyone, and would even shove a copy in their hands if they seem too reluctant.

Next stop? The movie!


  1. I loved that book. I had a hard time with the prologue too, but only because I wasn't bonding with the main character as an old guy. Once the book went back in time I fell in love with the story. And I'm probably the only one who didn't see the ending coming, but it was all the better for me as my mouth fell open. :-O

  2. I started it but couldn't get into it. Haven't seen the movie yet.

  3. I had no idea it started during NaNo! I haven't read the book yet, but I've seen the film being advertised here.

    Not sure which of the 2 I'll get to first. I'm tempted to go for the book now. ;-)

  4. I am excited to add this to my TBR :-) It is also way outside my genre and usual book tastes.

  5. I agree, this book was amazing.
    LG, my jaw totally dropped too at the ending.

  6. LG: Strange, I bonded with old Jankowski before I did with the young one. Also, prologue is the menagerie scene at the end, when Rosie does her thing (you know what she does).

    And I didn't see the very end coming either! I loved it!

    KarenG: O.o You're crazy. (Haha, no, I'm kdding.) We all have our tastes. :)

    KC Woolf: I hadn't realised it, but Sara Gruen has 3-4 novels that were written during NaNo. She does extensive research before, though.

    Sommer: Well, changing genres can be a breath of fresh air for writing. The focus, pacing and all is quite different from what I'm used to, but there's something to learn from it. :)

    cookie: Yay, a fellow lover! I quite like making new discoveries like this book.