Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Water for Elephants Redux (copy)

Do you ever return to a book for a second or third reading? My husband returns to the Charles Portis’ well every year when he rereads Gringos.

I recently reread Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen for the Reading Round Table sponsored by Sycamore Bank. The experience is comparable to watching a movie for the second or third time. You catch things that you missed in the first viewing like you miss in the book.

Unlike re-watching a movie, I forget so much in a book. For instance, I read Gruen’s book back in May of 2007 and completely forgot characters and plot. How in the world did I suggest it to anyone to read with my faulty memory? I am sure it was lame, something like, “It’s a good book.”

The prologue starts with a flashback from Jacob Jankowski. He remembers a turning point in his life as it unfolds over 60 years ago. In the memory the character August is killed. In my first reading I knew Rosie killed August, but in the second reading I was sure it was Marlena. Why such a discrepancy?

In the first reading I focused on the “redlighting” of roustabouts. To redlight a person is to throw them from a moving train. It can be certain death if the subject is thrown while the train travels over a trestle. I remember two episodes in the book where our hero, Jacob, is threatened with the custom by physically being dangled out the train’s car door. In the rereading, it only occurs once. Where did this extra episode in my head originate?

What happens to your brain when they make a movie and now all you see are the actors as you read? I habitually substitute actors for characters as I read. In Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, I picture Sandra Bullock although she has outgrown the part. If a book features a little person, I see character actor Billy Barty. Morgan Freeman looms large in my reading, too.

It shakes my brain up to see someone placed in the part that is against character. Throughout Gruen’s book brunette Marlena is constantly moving one hand up to cover her mouth. Readers can guess she is either embarrassed about her teeth or afraid of what she might say. Reese Witherspoon is neither brunette, snaggletooth nor afraid to speak; thus, wrong for the part.

Ask me about the book and for the next few weeks and I will have lots to say before I drift back into, “It’s a good book.”


sage said...

Great book that I reviewed a few years ago. And I will never again drink the lemonade at a circus

Bookfool said...

I just reread Simon Van Booy's Everything Beautiful Began After. I just read it in July and I couldn't believe how many things I'd forgotten, already! One was a pretty major plot point. I'm shocked at my pitiful memory.

I haven't read Water for Elephants and probably never will. It's one of the last books my mother read before her death and she hated it. Somehow, that's convinced me I can't touch it. I hope I'm not missing anything spectacular. Your review actually has made me think twice.

maggie moran said...

Hahahaha! Sage - stay away from the lemonade! ;D

Well, Bookfool, there is some sexual goings on close to the beginning that made me think, "is this necessary?" Is the author just trying to provoke readers? I now agree that it is b/c when I think circus I think seedy. We had a mixed group and the negatives blamed the sex and language. I think foul mouthed peeps can also be found in a carnaval atmosphere. One of the ladies told our presenter that she should not read such trash. :D Our presenter is 22yo and LOVES the book.

One last thing...One of the ladies tried to bring the sex up in the discussion calling it the elephant in the room. I took the bait, but no one joined me. :D

Italia said...

Water for Elephants, a fictional work by Sara Gruen is a compelling circus story of love, honesty, and struggles. Throughout the novel, the book switches from twenty-one year old Jacob's point of view to present day ninety year old (or ninety-three, he does not keep track anymore) Jacob. Jacob had everything he ever dreamed of and was well on his way to completing his Ivy League education to become a veterinarian, just like his father.