I was completely swept away by the enchanted world Gruen introduced me to. It reads easily and I was completely sucked in, yet it also informs like a history lesson. Gruen explains that she spent four and half months researching and "acquiring the knowledge necessary to do justice to this subject" of the traveling circuses in America in the 1920's and '30s.
While the overall story was heart-warming, there were aspects of it that really disturbed me. I can handle a lot of raw fiction but when Gruen detailed some of the animal cruelty that was involved in these circuses, it was truly heartwrenching. However, these instances are few and far between and looking back, they add a lot to the plot and understanding of the story. Didactically, Gruen's story emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding, toward both people and animals. Rosie, an elephant who joins the circus is probably my favorite characters that is an animal out of any book. She is so fascinating because of her personality and spunk - and eventual heroism. Some of her actions in the book are taken directly from other elephants in circus history during the depression - Topsy and Old Mom - which makes it all the most fascinating.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great story or reads for escapism. Gruen's imagery makes this world come alive in a way that is so real you won't want to put it down. Also, as I mentioned before, they began filming for the movie Water for Elephants in May of 2010, with it's release scheduled for 2011. I'm really looking forward to the movie.
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Year of First Edition: 2006
With 335 pages, this book puts me at 1,681 pages for the 2010 Summer Reading Challenge .