Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen | Book Review


With a secret like that, at some point the secret itself becomes irrelevant. The fact that you kept it does not.

Title: Water for Elephants
Series: standalone
Author: Sara Gruen
Published: 5/26/2006
Edition: paperback
Pages: 335
My Rating: 4 / 5
Goodreads page



Orphaned, penniless, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight train in the dark, and in that instant, transforms his future.

By morning, he’s landed a job with the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he’s in love.

In an America made colourless by prohibition and the Depression, the circus is a refuge of sequins and sensuality. But behind the glamour lies a darker world, where both animals and men are dispensable. Where falling in love is the most dangerous act of all…

(This synopsis is from Goodreads.)



I have a love-hate relationship with this book. It’s a really good book, but I hate the fact that Jacob’s situation (and everyone else in the circus) makes me feel so hopeless.

When I first started the book, I knew nothing about it, so I was surprised when I discovered that it was an adult book. It was only when the suddenly X-rated scenes popped up when I realized that this book wasn’t initially meant for young adults.

It was really awkward at times to read it in public. The first time I came across these X-rated scenes, someone was reading over my shoulder. Because of the combination of being surprised and a bit uncomfortable, I just skipped the pages.

The story switches between two perspectives: Jacob in the present and Jacob in the past. In the present, he’s a super old man in a nursery home. In the past, he starts off as a college student. I almost feel sorry for the older Jacob. Sara Gruen makes it seem like he’s trapped in his old body. His mind is younger than his outwardly appearance and actions imply to others.

One thing I didn’t like about the book was how repetitive it was sometimes. It was the same problem occurring at different points of the story. Also, the only thing that was on Jacob’s mind the whole time was how much he loved a certain someone. It got old pretty quickly.

In the prologue (which I highly suggest you read before you start the book), there is a murder, but you don’t know who killed who. All you know is that Jacob witnesses someone murdering another person and never tells a soul. If that doesn’t sound intriguing, I don’t know what does.

Also, the book has pictures, which is always a plus.



young Jacob Jankowski

His life is full of adventure, but at a cost. I have no idea how the heck he endured all the hardships without cracking, but he managed.

old Jacob Jankowski

Working in a circus in his younger years has taken a toll on him. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t have spirit for a 90 (or is it 93?) years old.


I hated him in the beginning and still hate him now.


I have mixed feelings about Marlena. She isn’t bad, but I don’t think she’s all that great to Jacob either. Too much drama for the heart to take.


He’s one of the only characters that I liked in this book. Despite his rough facade, he’s actually a pretty nice dude. I was pleasantly surprised on his character development.

Uncle Al

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the source of all the problems.


She’s hilarious. And freaking smart.


I just wanted to add Bobo in the character list because I love him. He’s such a cute chimp.



I sort of liked this book, but I don’t think I’ll be rereading it anytime soon. I give this book 4 / 5 BBC Sherlock heads.



Until next time….


4 thoughts on “Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen | Book Review

  1. RibbonReviews 11/06/2016 / 12:10 pm

    Thanks for the funand honest review. It’s always hard to cope with repeition in a so I’m glad there was enough to enjoy anyway. Though the blurb doesn’t tell me much at this point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jessica 11/06/2016 / 1:39 pm

      I think it’s best to go into the book without knowing too much. There were many interesting elements in the story to help make up for the repetition.

      Liked by 1 person

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