In a short blurb? We talk books.

Book & Movie // Water for Elephants

I must start this post by saying… I don’t generally write book and movie reviews. Ask me about a book, and I will blab to you about it until you’ve probably stopped listening. Ask me about a movie and we can get into an hour-long discussion about it. But tell me to write a review… well, I freeze. Then what am I doing starting a book blog? Well, I love sharing about books, so I’m going to try. I’ll start by pretending like you just asked me:

You: So, Carin… how was Water for Elephants?

Me: Ooh, girl, you have to read this book. I loved it. In that afraid-to-get-to-the-last-page-because-then-you-have-to-say-goodbye-to-all-the-characters-and-Sara-Gruen’s-lovely-diction-will-no-longer-soothe-you-as-you-sit-on-the-crowded-subway kind of way. Kind of hesitant to give it to your mom to read (though she totally should) because you liked the memories you got when you passed it on your bookshelf. Yeah, it was like that.

You: Wow. What was it about the book that made it so great?

Me: Well, for starters, Gruen’s voice captivated me from page one. She’s not an extraordinary writer in the way Ray Bradbury is an extraordinary writer, but she writes with this relatable simplicity that’s hard to match. Her metaphors were fresh and her descriptive honesty was brave. I have to give her props for not trying to be polite when describing some of the gross realities of human life. Like, come on, we’ve all seen what a penis really looks like. 

And then there’s the story. A little mystery, a forbidden romance, danger, mayhem, and the dark undertone of circus life during the Great Depression. There were characters that were relatable, characters that you were honestly scared of, and characters for whom you wanted to cry. Gruen balances the crazy world of the 1930s circus with glimpses into the main character’s life now, at 90… or 93, living in a nursing home bored to tears and alone. Anyone who has been close to someone going through old age will sympathize with the old guy, especially as the book reveals all that he went through as a young man.

You: So what did you think about the movie?

Me: Something that helped the movie’s case was certainly my low expectations for it. Anyone who’s not a 14-year-old girl understands that Pattinson needs a few more years before he can start being taken seriously as an actor, and I knew the movie couldn’t possibly be as captivating as the book. But, I was first pleasantly surprised by the setting and the directing. The circus was even more glorious than it looked in my head. The directing captured the darkness of the story and kept the scenes interesting.

The writer of the screenplay changed the characters quite a bit, changing attitudes and motives and background stories, and often merging a couple characters into one. All of the choices and cuts made sense for the movie, but it changed the entire feel of the story at some points, which was less than desirable, of course.

Overall, I can’t complain. It was enjoyable as a movie and it allowed me to revisit the experience I had while reading it in a whole new way. Oh, and I loved Cbristoph Waltz as August!

You: So should I read the book, watch the movie, or both? And if both, in which order?

Me: Read. The. Book. I can’t say it enough. Watch the movie only after you’ve fallen in love with the book.



3 comments on “Book & Movie // Water for Elephants

  1. heymanletsread
    July 24, 2011

    I’ve been hesitant to see this movie because I loved the book so much—I don’t see how they could do it well (and with Robert Pattinson of all people). You think it was enjoyable? I guess that’s all we can ask of our movies! I’ll have to check it out once it’s on dvd.

    • Jane & Carin
      July 25, 2011

      I felt the exact same way until my Twilight-hating sister told me that the movie was actually quite good. But let me warn you, the story moves faster than you would like and the characters’ personalities seem a little off, partially because of the actors themselves and partially because the writer chose to merge some of the characters’ attributes to make the story more manageable as a film. For example, Camel has to take on a couple of different characters’ actions, which causes his personality to change a bit, and Uncle Al has been cut out of the script, leaving only August as the big man in charge. That said, there’s nothing like getting an actual visual of the insane world of the 1930s circus, and I particularly enjoyed seeing Christoph Waltz play August — I thought he was excellent. In the end, it helps to remember that they are trying to produce a movie, not re-create the book, and overall, I think they did a pretty good job. Let me know when you watch so we can discuss!


  2. Pingback: Tana French // Faithful Place « jane & carin // books

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This entry was posted on July 24, 2011 by in Book Reviews, Book to Screen, Carin, Fiction and tagged , , , .

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Words We Like

“I think it makes more sense to write what you don’t know. To write what makes you uneasy, what you wonder about, what keeps you awake at night."

— Lois Lowry, at the BEA Children’s Book and Author Breakfast

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