However, in this blog's untimely fashion, I have just begun Sarah Gruen's novel, Water for Elephants. Many have already read the book AND experienced the movie, which is mostly about seeing the Twilight actor with some color in his cheeks.
The book is told from the dual perspectives of the main character, Jacob Jankowski, as as an old man parked in a facility for seniors, and as a young man unmoored by a family tragedy who joins a depression-era circus as a vet.
The book opens with what seems to be a murder scene, and while this novel doesn't quite have the literary panache of Lord of Misrule, the plot of star-crossed lovers and exotic creatures (some human, some not) is moving quickly. In many scenes, the novel draws attention to helplessness and desperation--the helplessness of age, eccentricity, loneliness, job loss. There is the paralysis caused by “Jake”—a prohibition drink that had dangerous additives to make it unpalatable. But rather than discouraging people from drinking, Jake provided a passing high—and then lasting paralysis of the lower limbs or “jake leg.”
There is also the helplessness of animals whose powers and possibilities are kept repressed, caged, or beyond the animals’ realization . So far, the insights into human/animal relations are vividly depicted but not unusual. The circus animals are valued for the crowds they attract yet are generally abused by handlers--with the exception of a lovely heroine, a dwarf clown, and Jacob. And the elephant has just arrived on the scene, a refugee from another circus that went under. One of the most disconcerting revelations concerns the feeding of the big cats, the charismatic and dangerous lions, panthers, and tigers. They are not "hay-burners" and their "peaceful" presence requires the regular sacrifice of goats--or of horses or any other animal that is not greatly productive. The question now becomes--what depths might be added to the love story of humans and the love story with the elephant. More to come. . .