Under the Big Top

For the past few days, I've been delighting in the pages of Water for Elephants.  This novel, carefully researched by author Sara Gruen, follows the "roustabouts" and "kinkers" of Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show on Earth in the midst of the American Great Depression.  Like hearing a fairy tale for the first time, it colored my imagination and pulled at my heart.  Its characters, both animal and human, live on in my mind long after I finish reading.

While I have been hearing the praise of this book for years, somehow a story about the circus just didn't entice me at first.  But, now I've given in. Now, I understand the magic of the tale.  
The book whisks its readers under the big top and all around the cook shack, water wagon and grandstand.  Though, be warned, this is not the spot-lit, cotton-candy world that we associate with a child's trip to the circus.  Gruen allows us into the darker, more tragic aspects of moving town to town, rail-car to rail-car.  
She fills her plot with poignancy amid the glossy performances and strange side-shows.  She reminds us that under all of the sequins and face paint are aerialists and equestrians and clowns with universal human stories and relatable emotions. 
Though I have yet a few more pages of the book to savor, I have the fantasy of the circus on my mind. 
Have you read Water for Elephants? How do you think Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz will play the parts of Jacob, Marlena and August in the upcoming film?
Images borrowed from VogueItaly.

1 comment:

  1. Pink Frenchie,

    A childhood fantasy was to escape to the circus, seemingly a dazzling world of endless fun. In Water for Elephants we see the unpleasant realties of life in the circus.

    Beautifully poignant is Gruen's depiction of Jacob in the nursing home and the tension created by alternating chapters of Jacob at 90 and at 20.

    I'm not a fan of flashbacks in film. I prefer linear narration. My question is: will Hollywood intercut between the two Jacobs? Will it begin at the end of Jacob's life? For me, films dependent on flashbacks seem less compelling because the flashbacks are not happening "now" -- the story is over and is only being retold.

    The novel is narrated in the first person. Will the film have a narrative voiceover. I love the tension of Jacob in the nursing home and the circus coming to town. Will he escape to the circus? If the movie eliminates the two Jacobs, it eliminates a lot of the tension.

    Novelists are often disappointed in the film version because so much of the novel is lost in order to make a two-hour film. Some readers too. I look forward to seeing the film. Not seeing Reese in her usual, sassy role (Legally Blonde) will be a change. She is a great actress so the casting may be perfect.


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