Friday, March 11, 2011

The Ladies Book Club: March 2011

Book Read:
Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen

Ladies in Attendance:
5 regular members plus 2 new faces

Treats shared:
Ahh, the spread. We do know how to bring it that's for sure. This time around we had wine and spiced cider. Cookies with sprinkles, chocolate chips and M&Ms. Tasty artichoke dip with crusty bread. Stinky blue cheese and crackers. Homemade Oreos. Oh and deviled eggs! Feast for Queens!

To Read or Not to Read:
4 ladies read the whole book.
1 lady read 1/2.
1 lady did not read it.

My Reaction:
This book is another one of those bestseller books that have been on my shelf and on my reading lists for YEARS. Why I have not read it before now, I do not know. My friend Cheryl loves this book and one of the ladies in our club has brought it along as a suggestion about four times now. Considering the movie is due out next month, we all agreed this was the time to read it.

I'm so glad I did. It was so very enjoyable and well written. The book is told from the perspective of Jacob. It is told in two parts. First part is current day as a 93 year old man living in a nursing home. And the second part is when he is a young man beginning his life in the circus.
Jacob's parents die before he is to take over his father's veterinarian business and out of despair, Jacob disappears and stumbles across a traveling circus. There he begins work as the circus vet and falls in love with Marlena, the show's beautiful performer. Problem is, she is married to August, the other star performer. This story is filled with so much; the class struggles within the circus, the depression in the world at the time, the sad stories of the circus workers, the good and bad treatment of the animals, and the familial feel of the circus life.

Jacob's current story is just as exciting to read as his memories of the circus. He has grown to be a feisty, whip smart man simply wanting to be understood and treated as an individual instead of one of the herd. He lashes out to a fellow senior when they admit they too worked for a circus in their youth and carried water for elephants. He becomes close to Rosemary, one of his caregivers and the only thing he looks forward to is the chance to go see the new circus coming to town.

Overall, between present and past, I thought this book was marvelous. I loved the time period, the life of the circus, the politics of it all, the love between Jacob and Marlena, the personalities of the animals and the idea that memories hold on to you until the very end.

The Ladies' Reaction:
They all loved it. Not one said they didn't enjoy it from cover to cover. There were no lulls in the story line and they all agreed it was wrapped up perfectly. (no spoilers)

We went through the Reading Group Guide at the end of the book and answered most of the questions raised even though most of the themes were already brought up in our own discussion. It was nice to be official:) These include the difficult time in history and the affect the circus had on people and how entertainment was so needed. It also included the idea of family and though hard and very classist, the circus certainly cared for its own.

We also discussed in detail the connections between the biblical story of Jacob and how it was tied to this book. The reading group guide brought it up though we all didn't seem to get the connection we all discovered our strong ties to religion and each of us had a Catholic or Lutheran school story in our past.

We all agreed that we would all go see the movie together next month even though we disagreed quite strongly with the casting of Reese Witherspoon as Marlena. In the book Marlena is quite young, strong and honest but not quite seductive. The trailer gives clips to what seems like a sultry Reese. Even though Robert Pattinson did not fit the description of Jacob for me, he does seem to empower the quiet strength that the character had in the book. This, of course, is just from a two minute trailer. More to come on that.

Good Book Club Pick?
Once again, we hit it the nail on the head! This one was another charmer and brought up a lot of discussion. One of the ladies is actually from the hometown of which the Ringley Brothers Circus started. We all felt so strongly for Jacob's story and just immediately got wrapped up in it all. It felt like a modern day classic to me. Discussion points include familial obligation, class struggles, forbidden love, prohibition, animal abuse, growing old, etc. So much was going on, our conversation never dwindled.

Author Website:

Movie Trailer:
Water for Elephants starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson

Next Book Up:
Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

*Read for 2011 Read From My Shelves Project

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Melissa said...

I'm so glad you and the ladies liked this one! It is one of my favorite books EVER. Loved, loved, loved this.

Jenny said...

I loved this book too which was completely unexpected... circus life in the 1930's? I'm so glad you guys loved it too. Sounds like it really made a great discussion! I don't remember it well enough to comment on the casting, but I did think that Robert Pattinson (I just called him Edward by mistake, LOL) and Reese Witherspoon is a strange combination haha.

Tales of Whimsy said...

I had to skim this because I haven't read it yet. I'll be back upon reading it :)

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I have been hearing so much about this book and when I look at it, I'm not sure why. But I read your review and went online and quickly purchased it. Thanks a bunch!

Michelle Stockard Miller said...! Yes, I must emphasize so I will remember to read it! This one and Game of Thrones (HBO) come out in April and I must get them read before...I just must!

It seems most everyone loves this book. I know both my mom and dad loved it and they rarely agree on anything (divorced)...LOL!

Senator said...

OK, so I know this book has been going around and like you I can't bring myself to read it. I don't know why. But hey! If you guys loved it so much, I suppose I'll keep it in the memory bank! :D

Um, so OMG you're going to LOVE Bourdain's second book. The first "Kitchen Confidential" is a must as well. Seriously. Go read it. Now.

Carol said...

Thanks for another opportunity to
join the ladies in their discussion


Stacy at The Novel Life said...

OH how I loved this book! What a perfect one for your Ladies Book Club to discuss! And I agree...I'm a little unsure of Reese as Marlena just from watching the trailer! Can't wait to see the movie though!

Lisa said...

My book club read this shortly after I started with them and it made for great conversation. Our leader at the time had not wanted to read it because she has a hard time reading about cruelty to animals but I always thought the cruelty to the humans was just as abundant in this book.

Misha said...

I have this book, but haven't read it. Your review convinced me to read it soon. I won't be watching the movie though. I don't like either of the actors in the movie...