I don’t talk much about those days. Never did. I don’t know why – I worked on circuses for nearly seven years, and if that isn’t fodder for conversation, I don’t know what is. Actually I do know why: I never trusted myself. I was afraid I’d let it slip. I knew how important it was to keep her secret, and keep it I did – for the rest of her life, and then beyond. In seventy years, I’ve never told a blessed soul.
– From Water for Elephants, page 4 –
Jacob Jankowski is 90 – or 93 – years old and living in a nursing home … and he has a story to tell. Told alternately from the point of view of the elderly Jankowski and the “younger” Jankowski, Water for Elephants is an entertaining novel of the circus which uncovers a long kept secret about a murder. Gruen fills her novel with colorful characters with names like Camel and Kinko. She weaves true (albeit outrageous) vignettes about circus life through her fiction. Black and white photos from circus archives are interspersed throughout the novel.
Water for Elephants is about love and loyalty, greed and cruelty. For anyone who has thought about running away to join a circus, this novel is a must read. Animal lovers will fall in love with Bobo and Rosie, and cheer at the end.