#48. Water For Elephants. Sara Gruen. Fiction Novel. 4 stars.
I really liked this book, though I’ll be honest here, I can’t quite pinpoint why. It’s not really my “type” of book, if I have a “type” of book. I generally stay more off the beaten path, and rarely (never?) pick up a book that is a legitimate bestseller and have anything other than a frustrating and desperate reaction. But this was good. There was something beautiful and very much off the beaten path about it, but it was just accessible enough I think that it managed to mainstream itself, and good for Gruen. Good for us all. I wish we could do this with more great books, Water For Elephants is a great example of how to bridge the gap between really great books and what most everyone else is reading (i.e. NOT great books).
I had a few problems with the book, primarily I suppose was the issue that while Gruen told a beautiful and engaging story, I didn’t really feel I learned anything. The characters changed in the course of her book, it’s almost impossible for them not to I would guess, but I don’t know that I felt they “grew”, I didn’t feel the process, it was more just the exposition I suppose of what happened to the people in her story. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think I would have liked the book even more if there had been another layer to it. Although, there was some mention in the author’s interviews/notes in the back of the book of a parallel with the story of Jacob (also the name of Gruen’s main character) from the book of Genesis in the bible. It’s been an age since I read Genesis so I’ll have to go back and re-read and see what I see. Ironically enough considering it is almost Christmas, no bibles have been lying around conveniently enough to pick up, that’s not too surprising though I guess considering I’m an athiest. When I get home I’ll crack my bible open and see if this is the layer I am perhaps missing in Gruen’s book, and if necessary add an update to this review.
I highly recommend this book for people who read a lot of mainstream literary fiction and I also recommend this book to people who generally avoid mainstream fiction literature like the plague. The story was fresh, well researched, interesting, and engaging. Overall a great and enjoyable read. Suitable for a beach read, but not inane in the way that beach reads often can be.
Hats off to you Ms. Gruen…perhaps you have paved the way for the rest of us.
4 stars (out of a possible 5).