One-Minute Book Reviews

September 14, 2007

Five Things I Learned About Sara Gruen’s ‘Water for Elephants’ From the First Two Chapters

Yesterday I read the first two chapters of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. Here’s what I learned about the novel from them:

1. The narrator is a man in his 90s. He sometimes thinks that if he had “to choose between an ear of corn or making love to a woman,” he’d choose the corn.

2. The characters say things like “Dagnammit” and “Grady, git that jug back, will ya?”

3. Some characters “hiss,” “cackle,” “bark,” “hoot” and “cluck” their words instead of saying them. (As in: “‘Woohoo,’ cackles the old man,” page 26.)

4. These clichés appear in the first page-and-a-half: “thunderous applause,” “screeched to a halt,” “My heart skipped a beat,” “No one moved a muscle,” and “ ‘you’ve got a lot to lose.’”

5. Susan Cheever says this is a book about “what animals can teach people about love” (quote in the front matter).

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. Oh boy! My long-distance book club just chose this as one of our selections for 2007-08 three days ago. Do you think you are going to finish it and write a reading group guide?

    Comment by speedytexaslibrarian — September 14, 2007 @ 8:42 am | Reply

  2. Maybe it’s all “camp.”

    If not, yawn.


    Comment by knightofswords — September 14, 2007 @ 11:10 am | Reply

  3. Speedy: I’m hoping to finish the book and post at least a short review next week. But that’s a bit iffy because the novel has 300+ pages, and I have a stack of books that look more interesting.

    There’s a reading group guide to “Water for Elephants” at the back of the paperback edition (which should also be posted on the Algonquin site). The guide is extensive but dry and not likely to get anybody excited about the book. So if I do a Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guide it will deal with questions not covered in that one.

    Could I use your real first name on this site? Or should I call you Speedy?

    Malcolm: “Maybe it’s all ‘camp'” … Oh, I wish. This is an extensively researched historical novel about a Depression-era traveling circus.

    Thanks so much for both of your comments.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — September 14, 2007 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

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