As the story opens, Jacob is living out his days in a nursing home and hating every second of it. Now in the last stages of his life, he recalls a happier, carefree time, when he literally had run away from it all and joined the circus.
It had not started as a happy journey however. Jacobs parents are killed in an auto accident week before he is about to complete his college medical exams to become a veterinary. Once he has buried his parents, Jacob learns that the home he live sin was mortgaged for his schooling and he is about to lose it all. With nothing left but the shirt on his back, he takes off and jumps a train, soon to be discovered as a Benzini Brothers (second-rate at best) Circus Train.
Water For Elephants is the story of Jacobs time with the circus, starting from the bottom of the bottom and working his way up not only in stature, but also in the eyes of Marlena, the wife of the jealous and abusive animal trainer, August.
In 2009, my book club, The Bookies, read Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen. In a phrase, we loved it from “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” Our group loved this book and it led us to such a great discussion of the realities and harshness of the inner workings of the circus. Later, when it came to out year in review awards that we do every year, Jacob won for our favorite male character in a book club read for 2009, and Sara Gruen took our best newly read author award.
On November 1, the DVD release of Water For Elephants will hit the stores. (SSQQUUEE!!!!) I was offered a pre screening of this movie to post my thoughts on and having loved (LOVED!) the book so much I jumped at the chance to see the DVD.
I did not have time to get the Bookies together for a screening, but still plan to do so…. instead, I treated myself to the viewing of this movie one evening and was as giddy as a school girl to experience it. Robert Patterson (Jacob) and Reese Witherspoon (Marlena) are cast well. I was very impressed with how they handled both the parts.
Although it has been two years since I have read the book, it easily came back to me through the movie. Charlie, Camel, Kinko… there are some colorful characters in both book and movie!
I would have liked to have seen more of the flash backs we see in the book of older Jacob to young Jacob, but honestly, I feel the movie works and is a beautiful compliment to the book.
If you have not read the book I highly encourage you to do so, and certainly make sure you get a chance to see this movie as well. For those of you who have, or will be, experiencing both book and movie, I am attaching a page of questions for you to review with your book group or friends.