Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants was recommended to me several years ago when it first came out, but for some reason it didn’t appeal to me at the time, or I passed it over for some other reason. A couple of weekends ago, we were at the library, and I noticed it. In fact, the library we visited was so depressing, that it was one of only three books I bothered to check out.

I finished it tonight, having chosen to savor it and make it last, because once I started reading it, and realized it was about the circus, I was hooked.

This novel is both a behind-the-scenes look at traveling circuses in the 1930s and a love-letter to the art form. Told in flashbacks by the main character, Jacob, who used to be a vet “on a show,” we glimpse the dirtier aspects of circus life, including the often brutal treatment of workers, performers, and animals, the way acts were formed, and the competition between different circuses.

I’ve been telling my husband I want to see the circus for my birthday (Ringling Bros. will be in town), and the fact that this book fell into my lap a month before that event seems to be a favorable sign.

Goes well with caramel corn.