[Book Review] Sometimes an Elephant is Just an Elephant

Meg’s Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

(If you feel like hacking a canary, then 3.5.)

My mother’s not an avid reader, but when she finds something she likes she proceeds to force it upon everyone. And by everyone, I mean me. The format has worked well in the past (I may not have ever read Harry Potter had she not bought the books and locked me in my room to read them), so when she started harping on about Water for Elephants, I assumed it would be another terrific find.

And it might be. Or it might not. I can’t decide. Water for Elephants has got my feathery panties in a twist; I still can’t figure out if it was a good book or simply a fluff book hiding under the cape of capital-L Literature.

The story is narrated by the 90-something Jacob Jankowski, as he recalls his twenties. The majority of the plot revolves around the sudden death of his parents, which indirectly leads him to join the circus. The words ‘joining the circus’ should send up red flags; after all, nothing but ridiculous shenanigans (or crazy killer clowns) have ever followed the phrase. But I will say one thing about Gruen’s writing: she keeps things grounded. When big, over-the-top events are happening, the narrative is so firmly controlled by Jacob’s thoughts and emotions that the story never runs away from the author completely.  That’s quite a feat considering the ending, which caught me by delightful surprise.

However, I have issues with said narrator. Continue reading