In a short blurb? We talk books.
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.