Thursday, September 10, 2009

Running Away with the Circus

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen recounts the story of a Cornell veterinary student who is about to graduate when a family tragedy changes his life forever. When Jacob Jankowski realizes that he has nothing left due to his parents' death and the loss of their assets during the Crash of 1929, he runs away and lands on a circus train. He soon becomes the circus vet and develops a strong bond with the animals, especially the performing elephant, Rosie. Not only does he discover that he was meant to follow in his father's footsteps, but he falls in love along the way with the beautiful performer, Marlena. However, she's married to a violent and hated man, August. Nonetheless, the stubborn yet intelligent creature, Rosie, plays a key role in Jacob's destiny.

Jacob is now a 93 year-old man and through his memories, we are transported to the gritty way of life on a circus train during the Great Depression. The struggles of the social classes between the circus workers and performers mirrors that of the dispairty between the poor and the rich of the era. Gruen's descriptive prose and attention to historic details depict the lawlessness and debauchery of the circus and the time period while at the same time highlighting its beauty and the hope that it brings to so many unfortunates.

I really loved this book! While I read it, I pictured a world like that of the film, Moulin Rouge. I would love to see Baz Luhrmann's interpretation of the book with his exciting camera work and visually stunning sets and costumes. It seems the film rights have been bought by Fox 2000, so that may become a reality by 2010!

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