Water for Elephants
In the words of Barnes and Noble
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell." Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive "ship of fools." It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
This book has been out for awhile but I have only just recently read it. I found the story engaging and unique and the characters interesting. The author has a good understanding of what it is like to be elderly and losing your physical capacities faster than your mental ones and the present day story is woven effectively with the story told in memory. The writing style is the type which remains unobtrusive for me, there is skill involved and no glaring awkwardness though it did not stand out in a creative and artistic way either. It's an easy and enjoyable read due to smooth writing, a captivating story and interesting enough characters. My main criticism is that Marlena, the love interest, is not a well developed character and perhaps veers a bit towards being a manic pixie dream girl. The flip side of that, is what I think is a very believable male protagonist written by a female author.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
I enjoy a bit of fantasy and magic in a story and this one has it. The prose, like the characters and the story itself, is embellished enough to suit the mood of the theme without distracting from the story. Written in the currently popular present tense, which I sometimes find annoying, this style works with the sense of dramatic tension and the fast pace yet complex and detailed plot. Of the two books this one if my favourite but that is more about personal preference than quality.
I am not particularly a fan of circuses, yet each of these books holds a story that captivated me and characters who appealed. They are definitely two of the best fiction books I have read in the past several months. I encourage you to try one or both if you haven't already and if you have read them I would love to know your thoughts.
Source of book cover images and overviews: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/