Sunday, March 26, 2017

Historical Fiction Annotation

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Author: Gruen, Sara
Title: Water for Elephants
Genre: Historical Fiction, Love Story
Publication Date: 2006
Number of Pages: 335
Geographical Setting: There are multiple settings for this book, during the flash-forward it takes place in a nursing home, in the flashbacks, it starts out at Cornell University and then the majority of the book takes place in the circus.
Time Period: 1930s, 1990s

Plot Summary: Water for Elephants is told as a story through the main character, Jacob Jankowski, who is now in his nineties and living in a nursing home. His story takes place in 1932, in the circus world, as he transitions to life in the circus after he discovers his parents have both died in an accident and he is forced to drop out of veterinary school. The circus owner gives Jacob a job as the circus' veterinarian after learning about his educational background. Quickly after arriving at the circus Jacob falls in love with Marlena, who is married to, August, the head animal trainer, who is abusive to both Marlena and the animals he trains, including Rosie, the elephant. Jacob also dearly cares for Rosie and learns that she only responds to commands in Polish, which Jacob speaks, so he starts training her. The bond that develops between Jacob, Marlena and Rosie throughout the novel allows the reader to want to keep reading until the very end. 

Subject Headings: Circus-fiction
Circus Performers-fiction

Appeal: Jacob Jankowski's kindness and love for Marlena and the animals at the circus, especially Rosie, will allow readers to be captivated by the story and engage with the characters. Strong and kind characters are a big appeal to readers, because the reader becomes attached to the characters and this leads to them wanting to know what happens to them next. The love story between Marlena and Jacob will also captivate readers, readers will want Jacob to save Marlena from her abusive husband. 

3 terms that best describe this book: Engaging, Romantic, Atmospheric

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors
Queen of the Air: A True Story of Love and Tragedy and the Circus by: Dean N. Jensen- This book states it's “a true life Water for Elephants.” It's a story about the famous trapeze artist, Leitzel and her love affair with Alfredo Codona, a fellow trapeze artist. 

Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived by: Ralph Helfer-This book tells the trials and tribulations of the life of Bram and Modoc, a man and a circus elephant who made his rise to stardom in 1940s New York City. Readers who enjoyed the relationship between Jacob and Rosie will enjoy this novel as well. 

American Sideshow: An Encyclopedia of History's Most Wonderous and Curiously Strange Performers by Marc Hartzman-This book gives readers a behind the scenes look at the life of circus performers, and it gives the history of the circus through the years. 

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors
The Orphan's Tale by: Pam Jenoff- Both works are historical fiction that take place in a circus setting. Both main characters take refuge with the circus, which comes with ups and downs. 

The Night Circus by: Erin Morgenstern- Both books revolve around life in a circus, although The Night Circus has magic and fantasy throughout the story. 

At the Water's Edge by: Sara Gruen- Reader's who enjoyed Water for Elephants will hopefully also enjoy Gruen's other novel, for similar writing style and the historical fiction aspect. The novel does not take place in a circus setting for readers who liked that aspect of her first book.


  1. Fantastic book and annotation! Great job with the appeals, summary and readalikes. Full points!

  2. I've heard of this book but never thought to read it, but it does sound interesting! I liked your recommendations for non-fiction work, American Sideshow most of all. Your annotation also makes me think of The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Hoffman. It's about a sideshow instead of a circus but the main character was brought to mind when reading about Marlena.