I have been meaning to read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen for a couple of years. The novel is about a young veterinary student Jacob Jankowski who joins a circus after the death of his parents in a car crash. The book is set during the Depression when life was tough for most and a circus needed to be bigger, weirder and more daring than its competitors to attract custom. Jacob becomes the animal ‘doc’ and is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. He soon meets Marlena, the beautiful star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charming but seriously violent and abusive animal trainer.
The book appears very well researched and modelled on real circuses and their performers. The Benzini Brothers has a clear caste system, despite its second rate status and it was interesting learning about the distinctions between the workers and the performers. Times were hard and pay was infrequent for those on the lowest rank of the social ladder. It was the setting and authentic atmosphere that impressed me the most about the book. However, the inevitable romance between Jacob and Marlena will appeal to many and you may like to read the book before the film is released mid-year.