Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
General Fiction (with historical aspects)
335 pages

* * * * * Recommended Reading! * * * * *

I realize I am probably the last person on the planet to read Gruen's intriguing circus tale Water for Elephants, but it was certainly worth the wait. This layered novel introduces us to Jacob, an elderly man in assisted living reflecting upon his years working for the circus during the Depression-era. Gruen's attention to detail and circus history really add to the plot of the story; I found myself wanting to know even more about life as a circus employee and performer. Add an array of perfectly cast characters to a solid plot and you have a great weekend read. Oh, and there's photographs, kids!

The Help by Katherine Stockett
General Fiction (with historical aspects)
451 pages
* * * * * Recommended Reading! * * * * *
* * * * * Best of 2009 According to Books on the Nightstand Podcast/Blog Followers * * * * *

As many of you know, I waited on the reserve list at Library B with MUCH anticipation for well over a month before adding myself to the reserve list at Library A  with hopes of getting my hands on this much-talked about book of 2009. Once I attained my copy and had started reading, I happened upon a brand-new hardcover at the local Goodwill for $4; I almost did a little dance in the aisle on my way to the register. I gleefully returned my library copy and jumped right back into this incredible story of very different life experiences in Mississippi during the 1960s. A debut novel by Stockett, The Help features a young white woman (Skeeter) hoping to develop her writing career and uncover the horrible treatment of the women hired by families through the anonymous telling of stories from "the help" - the African-American women hired by families to care for the home and the children. The relationships between the children and "the help", the friendships of the women, and the trust built between one white woman and a group of African-American women during this horrific period in our nation's history will stay with you long after closing the book. The Help is now officially in my top ten favorite books of all-time.



02/08/2010 16:44

GREAT recommendations, Steph! I loved both these books, too.

I, like you, never thought that I would ever be interested in a circus tale about elephants. What a page-turner Water For Elephants turned out to be, though! Someone in a bookgroup I'm in suggested an interpretation of the ending that many never thought of. I'll post it on the Bookmarks site to see what you make of it.
I think it was all the buzz on the Goodreads Bookmarks site that turned me onto The Help. It's definitely one of the best books I have read in a very long time. I really liked the characters. I found myself laughing at times, angry at times and saddened at times throughout the book.

02/08/2010 17:26

I loved both of these books, too.

A friend recommended Water for Elephants, so I bought it. And it sat and sat and sat - the circus theme just didn't appeal to me. Finally, I decided to force myself to read it, and was I ever surprised! A great book and I loved the twist at the end.

The Help was very good, also -- I gave both 5 stars.

02/09/2010 03:59

I'm probably the only person on the planet who didn't like Water for Elephants. It was the tone not the storyline that turned me off. After your review and others' comments, I am tempted to revisit the book.

However, I loved The Help. I especially loved the aspect of metafiction in the novel.

02/22/2010 19:02

I absolutely loved Water for Elephants as well. My first book read by Guren as part of the Goodreads Seasonal Reading Challenge and lead me to read Riding Lessons. With the mention of The Help, I'll see if I can get my hands on that and read it as well (when I get time, of course!)

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