It’s been a while since I’ve read fiction that has absorbed me to the point of ignoring everyone else. I love books that utterly pull you in so that all you ant to do is lie on your bed, or curl up on the sofa and read. Water for Elephants was so good that despite it being on my Kindle, I didn’t even knit while I read and I finished it in 24 hours, which is no mean feat if there are 4 children and a house to deal with too!
The story follows Jacob, a young Polish origin vet in America who experiences a huge life changing tragedy and runs away to the circus, quite by accident. (As you do!) The book is a snapshot of life in a travelling circus in 1930′s America, the brutality, the incestuous relationships within people, the partition between performer and worker and the camaraderie that lies along side all the darker elements of a group of people pressurised into being together all the time. Jacob experiences all of these things, fresh from the real world and able to see things with both the clarity and naivety of being a young man with ideals and ethics that have not yet been corrupted.
Water for Elephants is also a love story, a tangled tug of war and an exploration of numerous twisted characters and relationships. It is beautifully narrated by the 90 year old (or 93!) Jacob, sitting out the end of his life in a care home and alongside the story of his past, is a delicately drawn picture of how life can end for even the most vital of people, people who had a youth which seemed it could never end in solitude. The brief and touching friendship that develops in that part of the story is heartbreakingly and heartwarming.
I’m incredibly grateful to Cara at Freckles Family who invited me to her book group and recommended this to me. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.