Sunday, July 15, 2012

Water for Elephants

I finished re-reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen yesterday. I hadn't read it in a couple of years (before the movie came out) and people were talking about it at work so I decided to re-read it. It isn't a bad book, Gruen clearly put a lot of research into getting the Depression-era details right. But, 90 or 93-year-old Walter is my favorite character. Maybe it is his flaws, but he seems the most well-constructed part of the book. The Depression-ear Walter and Marlena's love story is cute, but seems forced or rushed in places. One minute they kiss and the next minute they are in love with only a few sentences of inner-dialogue from Walter inbetween.

I do love (and hate) the fact that the book focuses so much on animals. I am a huge animal love and animal rights supporter (not so far as PETA, but I love animals) so the treatment of some of the animals is absolutely heart-breaking to read. The same goes for the human treatment, but as it is couched in the Great Depression and framed as either the circus or starving their treatment doesn't seem as bad (or I am completely desensitized to it). The scene after August uses the bull whip on Rosie and they have to treat her wounds is one of the most devastating to me. I have used riding crops and whips on horses before so I understand that they are teaching aids, but the idea that you would use them so much that they would puncture skin just shakes me to the core. I couldn't even imagine striking an animal that hard.

The discussions about the treatment of humans and animals is the real reason to read the book, for me. The story isn't bad, mostly just predictable. For fans of Nicholas Sparks and The Notebook it is definitely the kind of book that could be enjoyed, but for me it just feel short of what I thought I might feel re-reading it.

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