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Old 01-04-2008, 11:01 AM
 
Location: Journey's End
10,183 posts, read 23,406,731 times
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This thread is restricted to the discussion of Sara Gruen's book, "Water for Elephants." Discussion will commence shortly and this thread opened.
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Old 01-26-2008, 06:19 PM
 
Location: Journey's End
10,183 posts, read 23,406,731 times
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Default Water for Elephants

We are lucky to have gemthornton volunteer to lead our discussion on our second book selection:


Book: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Group Leader: gemthornton
Discussion Thread Open: on/about Noon, Friday, 1 February 2008
Discussion Thread Open: Indefinitely

Rules of Engagement:

Enjoy, discuss, exchange ideas, opinions, make allusions, references to similar plots and themes, but otherwise try not to introduce unrelated topics.

General off topic comments will be permitted as they relate directly to the reading group and the book under discussion.

This is intended as a "fun" experience and not school!

[b]gemthornton/B] will lead the discussion and keep it moving. We will keep the thread open, indefinitely, so that the members of our group who have not had a chance to procure it or read it can join the discussion at any time.

Members who have not read this book, please take your time and try to resist reading the thread (unless you wish to hear about the book beforehand ) and trust that the discussion will be on-going as members can and will join the thread.

I will act as moderator only.

I do think we can assume that one or more City-Data members, who did not sign on, might join us in our discussion. As this is a public forum, this is inevitable and permissible. Only posts that do not conform to CD ToS will be monitored and/or deleted.

Please make any suggestions or offer your input here at any time.

Last edited by ontheroad; 02-03-2008 at 08:43 AM..
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Old 02-01-2008, 10:51 PM
 
Location: Utah
1,455 posts, read 3,303,204 times
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Glad you're looking positive, Gem.

I'm sure we can sit tight a few days!

I'm wondering if anyone has any websites in mind to get more background info about the setting?
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Old 02-02-2008, 09:22 AM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
5,037 posts, read 6,634,926 times
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lolagranola, you might find this site interesting.
The Circus in America: 1793 - 1940
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Old 02-02-2008, 08:38 PM
 
Location: Atlanta suburb
4,728 posts, read 8,471,690 times
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Default A couple of background websites to give us more insight into the Depression Era.

Thanks for adding that link, tigerlily. It is full of interesting background of the history of American circuses.

Another great link that you may want to check out is one on the Great Depression hobo camps. This will enter into our discussion, I'm sure, of Water for Elephants.

Teenage Hoboes in the Great Depression

Also, the following website provides an interesting accounting of the circus trains of the Depression era:

Golden Years

This was a desperate time in American history, but also one that shows the strength of American determination, ingenuity and can-do spirit.

I think that Water for Elephants shows both the best and worse of human characteristics that surface during bad times. It will be interesting to explore these reactions to the twists and turns of adversity and opportunity.

I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading Sara Gruen's book as much as I have. I am looking forward to our discussion.
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Old 02-02-2008, 09:04 PM
 
Location: Atlanta suburb
4,728 posts, read 8,471,690 times
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Smile Water for Elephants discussion to begin Sunday @ 3:30pm.

We accept any and all reasons, blue. Yours are very understandable.

I hope that a 3:30 pm EST, Sunday, Feb.3 start time for Water is convenient for most.

Blue62 brings up a good point. Because we are discussing all layers of A Thousand Splendid Suns and Water for Elephants, the themes, characters, and even conclusion of these stories probably will be revealed in our discussions.

If you are not finished reading one of the books that you would like to discuss, it is probably better to refrain from reading the thread. It may affect your own enthusiasm for the book before you have finished it. And, we may miss some insights that you would have formed on your own. Just a thought.

Hope to be reading with you all tomorrow.
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Old 02-03-2008, 01:51 PM
 
Location: Atlanta suburb
4,728 posts, read 8,471,690 times
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Smile What a wonderful story of coming of age and going out peacefully.

I hope that everyone who has read Water for Elephants has enjoyed it as much as I have.

Sara Gruen weaves a wonderful story based on an actual slice of Americana - the circus trains during the great Depression.

As this intriguing tale unfolds we become familiar with the main character, Jacob Jankowski, the young veterinary student and the now-eldery, Jacob Jankowski confined to a nursing home.

We experience two different eras, two very disparate individuals with conflicting outlooks on life, two perspectives of the individuals surrounding them, but there is only one Jacob Jankowski.

The easy transition between Sara Gruen's Jacob living and growing during the early years of the great Depression and her Jacob of the 21st century encourages the reader to form a bond with this one character.

I, for my part, enjoyed this contrast of the earnest younger man with the eldery codger that Jacob became. As the story unfolds it became apparent to me how this transition gradually occurred.

I appreciated the fact the Sara Gruen is a young wife and mother, but seems to have such an intimate knowledge of the thoughts of a life gone by seen in our 90 - or 93 year old Jacob. I had constantly forgotten that this was a woman writing this lovely story and not an experienced man of the world.

I wonder how others felt about this transitioning between the two "lives" of Jacob Jankowski. Any other thoughts on this?

Last edited by gemkeeper; 02-03-2008 at 01:53 PM.. Reason: Oh, dear, my spelling!
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Old 02-03-2008, 02:30 PM
 
Location: on an island
13,361 posts, read 38,508,140 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gemthornton View Post

I, for my part, enjoyed this contrast of the earnest younger man with the eldery codger that Jacob became. As the story unfolds it became apparent to me how this transition gradually occurred.

I appreciated the fact the Sara Gruen is a young wife and mother, but seems to have such an intimate knowledge of the thoughts of a life gone by seen in our 90 - or 93 year old Jacob. I had constantly forgotten that this was a woman writing this lovely story and not an experienced man of the world.

I wonder how others felt about this transitioning between the two "lives" of Jacob Jankowski. Any other thoughts on this?
I read this book awhile back, details are a bit sketchy, but can say that I was enthralled by its color, emotion and vivid depiction of the carny life.
My 18 year old son enjoyed the novel, as well.
I appreciated Gruen's understanding of Jankowski as both elderly gent, with busy adult children, and youthful vet student, newly bereft of his parents. To me, the back and forth of young and old Jacob was handled smoothly.
It was never confusing or abrupt, and each new transition complemented the former ones.
I know that there are supposed to be biblical references to Jacob, but all this went right over my head.
My knowledge of the Bible is not exactly thorough.
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Old 02-03-2008, 02:58 PM
 
Location: Atlanta suburb
4,728 posts, read 8,471,690 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlueWillowPlate View Post
I read this book awhile back, details are a bit sketchy, but can say that I was enthralled by its color, emotion and vivid depiction of the carny life.
My 18 year old son enjoyed the novel, as well.
I appreciated Gruen's understanding of Jankowski as both elderly gent, with busy adult children, and youthful vet student, newly bereft of his parents. To me, the back and forth of young and old Jacob was handled smoothly.
It was never confusing or abrupt, and each new transition complemented the former ones.
I know that there are supposed to be biblical references to Jacob, but all this went right over my head.
My knowledge of the Bible is not exactly thorough.
I agree with you 100%, BlueWillowPlate, about the transitioning. It was like putting your hands together and interlacing your fingers. I never felt that I had to go back to the previous chapter to see where the younger or the elder Jacob had left off.

I think that this transitioning helped me to know the characters better and in a more interesting way. We start out as one personality, but over time, life happens and we change, mellow, become forged by the fire of the years. I loved that aspect of Water.

I am so happy to hear that your 18 yr.old son enjoyed it. Being a reading teacher I am always excited to know what young people are reading - and in many cases, that they are reading, period.

I, too, wanted desparately to grasp the comparison of Jacob, the son of Issac from the Bible and Sara Gruen's Jacob. The first reference that insinuated a similarity was after Jacob lost his parents and began his sojourn.

He was resting on the bank of a cool stream on the first night that he left town and rested his head on a rock. In the book of Genesis Jacob also rested his head on a rock while he contemplated his situation. The other similarity that I drew was that Jacob was the favored son of Issac, although his twin Esau was born first.

I felt that all through the story that Jacob Jankowski was among the favored of all of the circus family although he was with them for a very short time. He seemed to be quickly trusted and liked by all of the social strata of the Benzini Bros. circus family.

The elder Jacob, as onery as he was, impressed me with being entirely loveable. Rosemary, his long-suffering nurse, demonstrated that to her Jacob was favored also. Do you remember after his rant in the dining room that Rosemary later brought Jacob an apple so he would have something to eat that night.

What an endearing gesture and Jacob did not let it pass unnoticed in his own heart. As the nurse left him she was "discreetly ignoring my tears." The skin was old and wrinkled, but it seemed to me then that Jacob inside had not changed a bit from that young vital Jacob.
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Old 02-03-2008, 03:16 PM
 
Location: on an island
13,361 posts, read 38,508,140 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gemthornton View Post
I felt that all through the story that Jacob Jankowski was among the favored of all of the circus family although he was with them for a very short time. He seemed to be quickly trusted and liked by all of the social strata of the Benzini Bros. circus family.
Very good point.
Quote:
The elder Jacob, as onery as he was, impressed me with being entirely loveable. Rosemary, his long-suffering nurse, demonstrated that to her Jacob was favored also. Do you remember after his rant in the dining room that Rosemary later brought Jacob an apple so he would have something to eat that night.
Yes.
I so agree. Jacob, despite his stubborn attitude, was worthy of being favored a bit--maybe Rosemary could see that.
I would have brought him an apple, too!
Quote:
What an endearing gesture and Jacob did not let it pass unnoticed in his own heart. As the nurse left him she was "discreetly ignoring my tears." The skin was old and wrinkled, but it seemed to me then that Jacob inside had not changed a bit from that young vital Jacob.
Yes--this book is a wonderful advocate for the elderly, isn't it?
The apple was an endearing gesture indeed, and a poignant moment in a book full of poignant moments.
A big one for me was when Jake realized what had happened to Walter, Camel et al overnight on the train.

Last edited by BlueWillowPlate; 02-03-2008 at 03:25 PM..
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