Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants as part of National Novel Writing month (Nanowrimo) and that is how I wrote my first novel, Living with Saci. The aim of Nanowrimo is to write 50,000 words in November. I think I managed around 14,000 by the end of the month I participated but I just kept writing into December and January and March all the way to June and then put it aside for two months before spending the best part of the next twelve months editing it.
The story of Water for Elephants is told through a series of memories by Jacob Jankowski, a man who can’t remember if he’s 90 or 93-years-old and lives in a nursing home. The old Jacob sections of the book are just as powerful if not more powerful than the sections featuring his younger self working as a vet for a circus.
I don`t think I have seen the whole of the 2011 film adaptation starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz and Hal Holbrook but I hope it devoted enough time to the older Jacob and not just focus on the young Jacob which for me was not as moving even though it deals with serious and startling issues.
The book is billed as a historical romance but for me the book is much more than romance, the details of the tough lives of those who worked on a circus during the great recession. The poverty, the violence the suffering is all brought alive by the her imagery and characterisation.
Sara Gruen was born in Canada. She started to write fiction when she was made redundant from her technical writing job. Water For Elephants was turned down by the publisher of her first two novels but thankfully she managed to find another. It went on to become a New York Times bestseller and is now available in 45 languages. She now lives in North Carolina, with her husband, three sons, and seven animals.