The week that I was sent a copy of Water for Elephants (thank you to the ever-generous Appliances online who funded Cara’s giveaway) I caught the trailer for the film. Despite featuring Reese Witherspoon, who I just know would be perfect to play me in the film of my life, in one of the leading roles, it did absolutely nothing to sell the film to me. If anything I rather thought that it looked rubbish.
The book I read in 48 hours.
I loved it. Of course, it helped that I had saved it until we were on holiday, thus doubling the usual amount of parent (not a typo: there’s usually just me ) available to look after my children and therefore opportunities to ignore their tears and keep reading. Still it was an impressive start: since having children, it has been known for a book to take me months to read, page by agonising page, as invariably I fall asleep before I get beyond a few sentences.
But Water for Elephants had me spellbound, from the opening paragraph, searching for the reason for the title: why is water for the elephants so significant?
And it all comes down to a brief conversation in the dining room of the Old People’s Home/Rest Home/Care Home in which Jacob, protagonist and narrator of the story, resides. A new resident, on hearing the circus is in town, sets the women’s hearts aflutter when he tells them that he once worked in a Circus. He used to carry the water for the elephants.
Jacob’s response is to thump him. And to tell us his story, and why he knows that the interloper is lying. In some ways, it’s that classic fairytale that we all dream of: running away to the circus, riding the rails. It’s a story of danger, of passion and of family. It is beautifully written: the descriptions are such that I could see the 1920’s colour and glamour in my head as if I were watching it on film. It was fascinating to read about the cut-throat nature of the entertainment business during the Depression; of the long days and hard work, striking camp every night to get to a new destination.
But I kept coming back to Rosie the Elephant, gentle and charming, who captured Jacob’s heart; a consummate actress with comic timing, who understood Polish and drank lemonade by the gallon. And that’s when I realised: you can’t carry water for elephants; it would be much too heavy.
It’s the relationship between Jacob and his elephant that really touched me: they share such a strong bond that she would do anything for him. And she does. He protects her, cares for her, and encourages her. She and the Circus become his family. And although he and Rosie leave that life, it’s to the Circus family that he eventually returns. His love for Rosie, the real reason for his outrage at the lie.
If you have been inspired to read more, join the Love a Book Club at Freckles Family.