I have been in paradise, also known as Cape May, NJ, since yesterday. I was very lucky to be invited to a blogger trip to a lovely hotel here called Congress Hall. I've had a few hours here and there to myself, which of course I spent reading.
This afternoon, I finished Water for Elephants, which I had been listening to on audio but finished in paperback. I picked up Water for Elephants because I thought I might want to see the movie, and I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie (my preferred order). I was late to the party on this one too – I think everyone else in the world has read it already.
And… I have to say, I really didn't like it. The book is about Jacob Jankowski, a young man who ends up working for a second-rate circus during Depression-era America. It is mostly told though the eyes of young Jacob, with some interspersed chapters narrated by a 90 year-old Jacob.
I thought that Water for Elephants read like a screenplay. The dialogue was both predictable and unnatural, and the love story at the core of the book was entirely unconvincing. The history of the circus and its role in that period of American history was interesting, yes. But otherwise, I didn't find much that was compelling about the book. There's a lot of cruelty to animals – not to mention people. And the plot was thin.
Part of the problem may have been the audiobook. I *hated* the narration of the young Jacob chapters. The narrator's voice was overly dramatic, and and the modulation of his tone to reflect different emotions (love, anger, tenderness) was so extreme that it was distracting. I have read a few positive reviews of the audiobook for Water for Elephants, which really surprised me. (I did switch to the paperback about 2/3 of the way through, and it didn't redeem the book for me. So it can't all be blamed on the narration.)
I am going to add Water for Elephants to the list of bestsellers that just didn't do it for me. I can't recommend this one.
If you liked Water for Elephants, tell me why. What did I miss here?