Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Water for Elephants - My Review

I absolutely love Circuses. Not just going to them, but reading about them. One of my all time nostalgic memories remains Mr Galliano's Circus from the spectacular Enid Blyton.
Not just for me, for most people, circuses trigger nostalgic memories, with views of the big top, trumpets, the wooden sleeper benches, and of the ring, spread over with saw dust. With circuses going bust all the time, the nostalgia factor only becomes larger!
Water for Elephants is an amazing piece of writing; for it is not set in circuses of our time. Instead, Sara Gruen chose to head back to the days of the Great Depression in the United States, and weaves a story about a train circus. There is a short interview with the author as an add-on to the book, and she says that the story came to her while reading a little news article about a train circus back then. Kudos to her for having the guts to write such a poignant story!
Another factor which makes the book extra special is that it is one of the few successfully published novels from the Na-No-Wri-Mo program (The National Novel Writing Month), which is an amazing idea for all aspiring writers. Some day hopefully, I'll work out the discipline to become a part of the program!
Coming to the book, Water for Elephants is centered around the life of Jacob Jankowski, a student of Veterinary medicine, whose life takes a strange turn and he lands up on the train of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth!

Every page of the book is filled with research. Sara must have spent thousands of hours to make sure she's creating an accurate image of America in the 1930s, and she does a phenomenal job. By the time we're halfway through the book, we are all experts in the socio-economic situation of the country in that era - and that is no small achievement!

The real magic of the book is the way the writer oscillates between the present and the past. The story actually starts with Jacob being a man in his nineties, living in an assisted-living facility. Throughout the book, the writer jerks us back to the present into the eccentricities of old people in the home. And in a few minutes, we are again thrown into the circus ring of the 1930s. Beautiful piece of writing!

All good books have a strong plot, and this one is no different. The plot of the book takes us through the day to day struggles of a circus trying its best to stay afloat in different times, and the crux is a love story! Each time we're brought back to the present, the story moves along to its next phase. Sara has made sure that the book doesn't lose pace anywhere, and every single character gets its due - from Uncle Al - who owns the circus, to August - who has the most complex character in the book. All the facets of human life - love, laughter, friendship, rage, fear, and victory, are etched throughout the story - making it a rich read.

This is a book you must get your hands on. Water for Elephants was also made into a movie, and that is next on my to-watch list.

1 comment:

Nas said...

Very good review!
I've been wanting to go to the library sometime and was thinking of books to get. This just got added to the list.

Thank you.