On the cover of Water For Elephants it proudly proclaims itself to be a No.1 bestseller and an International Word of Mouth phenomenon – yet until around 2-3 weeks ago, I'd never heard of it.Now, having read Sara Gruen's debut novel, I want to do exactly what the cover suggests – pass it on. There's something intensely satisfying about being knocked sideways by a book – especially one you didn't know existed before. Water For Elephants is the story of Jacob Jankowski, who becomes an orphan at the age of 22 during the Great Depression and a travelling circus, soon becoming the vet.Â
Jacob's trans-American tales are intercut with his modern-day existence 70 years later, languishing in an old people's home, as the circus comes to town and evokes memories of his former life.Â It's a truly dazzling tale of circus life, rich with colour, smell and behind-the-scenes dirt and utterly compelling with it. It is escapist entertainment of the highest order, but with intersecting love stories at its heart.
Water For Elephants reminded me enormously of Glen David Gold's fantastic Carter Beats The Devil, both of them managing to bring to life a bygone era and romanticise it but without too much sugar-coating.
With grim inevitability, the film adaptation is being planned – Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon are lined up to play the two main characters, neither of whom I can picture in the roles.Â
As always, I'm glad to have read the book before the film hits town – make sure you do, too.Â