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Water for Elephants: A Novel

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Pros: Reveals entertaining and often surprising details about Depression-era circus culture; animals being treated as integral parts of the plot provides a certain warmth.

Cons: Characters other than the protagonist are mostly two-dimensional; some may find the ending implausible.

I still miss HBO's Carnivale, so it was nice to return to 1930s circus life for a little while. Unfortunately, I didn't find most of the characters in Water for Elephants to be quite as engaging as the show's ensemble.

I felt sympathy for young Jacob's misfortune, and compassion for old Jacob's situation: I cared about him, and about Rosie and Walter, too. It's Marlena, August, and Uncle Al who seemed to exist primarily as plot devices, rather than as fully-realized people.

I was also disappointed by the way a character's exit was handled. I won't spoil by naming names, but he departs the story, and Jacob hardly seems to notice. Our narrator's reaction seemed less than credible, in my opinion.

Overall, it's a light read that I enjoyed more for the snippets of history about the time period than the story itself.

Grade: B-