Welcome to the book review part of the Cambria blog! At least once a month I’ll be reviewing one of the best books that I’ve read recently. Reading has always been one of my favorite things in the world to do, and since so many people I know who love food and wine also love reading, I thought it would be a great idea to talk about literature here as well. After all, a book and a glass of wine go so well together!
For my first book review, I picked Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. Water for Elephants was one of those books that I received lots of recommendations about from both friends and family, and when I finally picked it up, I wondered why it had taken me so long. From the moment I started reading it I was addicted, and had to keep reading until I finished it at around two in the morning.
Part adventure story, part romance, part historical fiction, and part fascinating glimpse into the atmosphere and culture of a Depression-era circus, Water for Elephants tells the story of Jacob, a bright young student who is about to graduate from college and start working in his father’s veterinary practice. When both of his parents are killed in a freak car accident, Jacob is overwhelmed with shock and grief. He leaves school in the middle of his final exams and starts walking without knowing what he is doing or where he is going. Just as he decides that he needs to return to the life that he has left, he stumbles across the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus that is, coincidentally, in need of a veterinarian.
Jacob quickly becomes fascinated by the turbulent and adrenaline-packed life of working on a circus, and falls in love with the show’s animals, including Rosie, a majestic elephant, and Marlena, the beautiful and enigmatic woman who performs with her. But when Jacob becomes entangled in a dangerous love triangle between Marlena and her mercurial husband August, whose charming demeanor hides a capacity for cruelty and violence, he is forced to put his life on the line to protect both Rosie and the woman that he loves.
Sara Gruen did a lot of research on circuses for her novel, and it shows. I loved her use of circus lingo and her descriptions of circus life, as well as the wonderful atmosphere she evokes during scenes that take place outside of the circus, including the scene in which Jacob is caught up in a raid on an underground speakeasy in Chicago, and then has to wander back through a tent city on the outskirts of town. Her descriptions make everything feel real, and it was her evocations of the time period, and not just the suspense of wanting to find out what would happen, that kept me reading.
Water for Elephants has just been turned into a movie starring Robert Pattinson as Jacob, Reese Witherspoon as Marlena, and their beautiful elephant co-star Tai as Rosie the elephant. The release date for the movie is April 22nd, only a couple of weeks away, and I am really excited! I usually prefer books to their movie adaptations, but Water for Elephants seems like it is so well-suited to be made into a movie that I think I’ll have to go and see this one.
For those of you who have read Water for Elephants, I’d love to hear what you thought of it! Did you have a favorite character? Or characters? What was your favorite part of the book? And what did you think about the love story between Jacob and Marlena?