Sara Gruen takes us into the seldom-fictionally explored world of the circus during the Depression with Water for Elephants. Given that it’s a circus, the individual nature of each character is almost inevitable; every person has their own talent to add to the circus, after all. Gruen interweaves Jacob’s narration of the circus with his present 93 year old perspective on the world; in short, he is reminiscing about his past life as he faces his current purposeless one in a nursing home. It’s an interesting viewpoint, and adds some mystery to the mix as the reader wonders how Jacob got to be where he is given his start.
I liked it, I felt it was solid historical fiction, but I didn’t feel jolted from it when I didn’t pick it up for two weeks due to a trip. I thought the little nuances of fantastical story that was really fact were the best part, like the antics of the elephant. Most of the characters were never built up very well, except for Jacob, whose is interesting, sympathetic, and imperfect. The ending was masterful and unexpected. Overall, a good book, worth reading.