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Publisher's Summary

Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. In the Depression era, Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers' "Most Spectacular Show on Earth". There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world: Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and Rosie, the seemingly untrainable elephant Jacob cares for.

©2006 Sara Gruen (P)2006 HighBridge Company

Critic Reviews

"This marvelously exciting and satisfying book has been given the engaging audio production it deserves." ( Audiofile)
" Water for Elephants is fun, sweet and thrilling and will pull you into the mysterious life of the circus so far that you won't want to leave." ( Guardian)

What listeners say about Water for Elephants

Average Customer Ratings
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Profile Image for Cath
  • Cath
  • 08-25-18

A great story

Really enjoyed the story, I didn't immediately like the voice of older Jacob, but when I got used to it, it was fine. I liked the character and he seemed more realistic for being grumpy and angry, rather than a lovely old man!

I found random musical bits annoying, distracting and unnecessary.They started too early at the end of the chapter and I could not work out why they were at the end of some chapters and not to others.

All in all I would recommend people read this just be prepared for random annoying music!

6 people found this helpful

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  • ptuff
  • 03-02-16

excellent story, well told.


this was a superb tale, well crafted and smoothly narrated . I was transported to the circus and felt the graft and grime of the reality of a travelling show years ago, while being immersed in a love story.

6 people found this helpful

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  • mrs
  • 03-27-17

loved it

this made a nice change from the novels I usually read. It was a good story, well told. I cared about the characters which, for me is essential.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Joy
  • 03-18-21

For anyone, and definitely for everyone under 30!

Loved this story on so many levels. For lovers, dreamers, animal lovers and anyone who looks after the elderly or considering a nursing home for their parents. An in-depth understanding of the elderly mind. Laughed out loud, cried in sadness and dreamed along with him...

1 person found this helpful

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Profile Image for Vicuña
  • Vicuña
  • 02-20-21

Interesting story but difficult descriptions of animal cruelty

Overall, I found this story engaging and entertaining. Set during the Depression, it’s a complex tale if travelling life as part of a circus. The central characters are well depicted; the ringmaster Augustus is easy to picture as the assertive bully who runs the show. Life is hard and there’s a real sense of deprivation as the show moves around the country.

Overall, I enjoyed the central story but found the depiction of animal cruelty very difficult to listen to. I know circuses of this type are a thing of the past and I don’t usually shy away from brutal reality, but the way Rosie was treated was harrowing, the more so because of her intelligence.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Agnes
  • 08-18-20

First-class

As good as it gets. I enjoyed every minute. An excellent finale was the cream on the cake.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mrs
  • 03-13-17

Great book. A definite must.

What did you like most about Water for Elephants?

I can't choose one aspect of this book. I thought both narrators were brilliant, the way the story switched between the young and old man were exceptionally good. I couldn't put it down.

What other book might you compare Water for Elephants to, and why?

I can't think of another book which so brilliantly juxtaposes two periods in a life. The handling of the old Jacob was particularly sensitive.

Have you listened to any of David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones ’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I haven't heard either of them before. I think they were both first class. John Randolph Jones made me cry more than once.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

From the beginning there were many and the ending was very good as well.

Any additional comments?

Read it and love it - although I know nothing about circus life it seemed very authentic and dreadful.



1 person found this helpful

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Profile Image for Sharon
  • Sharon
  • 09-09-21

Fabulous Audiobook

A wonderful story and thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook which was beautifully narrated. Highly Recommend.

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  • nought
  • 06-20-21

Beautiful

Such a lovely tale, beautiful in its telling
read with wonderful empathy, by a brilliant
Narrator well worth the listen

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  • Miss E S L Bayliss
  • 06-13-21

great narration and story

Really enjoyed the narration of this story. particularly between old and young Jacob. enjoyable listen

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  • MK
  • 05-16-17

I actually found it depressing

I was so excited to listen to this but I actually found it quite depressing.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-06-20

ok story, but poor writing.

book lacks the excitement every unusual event should bring to the reader. dont think would recommend

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-04-18

transports you to another life

what a truly lovely book. transports you to a wonderful world of the circus and you feel like you are right there with them.
The older gentleman's reading is abit hard to hear at times but overall it's a wonderful book.