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Buy This Book/See the Movie: Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

I’m late for the show on reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and I don’t imagine I can add much that hasn’t already been said about this grand, sparkling big circus of a book. In fact, I believe it was already excellently reviewed by Colleen for the blog some months ago. I’ll just note a few things that stuck out for me. Like the prologue. I’ve read so much about how they should be done away with, that agents and editors warn against them, but here’s this very successful exception, which just goes to illustrate that it’s the exception that proves the rule and another axiom: Write it the way you feel it. The way you feel it not the way the rules say you should. Or in other words, once you learn where the lines go, feel free, very free, to color outside them. It doesn’t matter what form your creative expression takes. But no one since Shakespeare has said it better: “To thine own self, be true. . .” Because when it’s all said and done, the book, or whatever, should speak from your own heart; it should tell your truth.

According to an interview, that’s how Sara Gruen writes, from the center of herself. She felt the draw of this story to the marrow of her bones. It reached to her through a single photograph. (Several wonderful old photos were inserted throughout the copy I read and they brought back so many memories of going to the circus when I was a kid, they brought my imagination alive.) She said she had to write it and she did it by the seat of her pants. In her words: “I hate outlining. I hate outlines, hate them, hate them.” She knew what the crisis would be and that it would be bad but not how to get there or how she would resolve it. She worked it out finally in a closet and it is a wonderful, engrossing and glorious read, a most spectacular show indeed with a fairy tale of an ending. And now a movie (trailer below) in theaters this month.


Jerusha said…
I just read this book last week! I loved it! I thought the prologue added to the tension of the story perfectly. The way the memories slipped right back into the present day and the confusion of age and catastrophe were seamless.

My only problem with the movie is the casting of Reese Witherspoon. I love her, she looks like she'll do an amazing job, but she's too blonde and too old for that role. My mom says it's too meaty for a young actress, but I reject that.
Barbara Sissel said…
I agree, Jerusha. Reese Witherspoon is somehow wrong for the role in my mind too. I couldn't put my finger on it, but too blonde works. I thought perky, too ... I like her, but she's very perky for the part. I love your sentence too, the one where you say that the confusion of age and catastrophe were seamless. You have a way with words, gal!

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