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.