Tuesday, June 13, 2006
In the kitchen, there's one window that opens up onto the backyard and looks toward the beach. The kitchen gets the cross breeze, the living room gets traffic noise. Somehow this doesn't seem right. I spend more time in the living room and instead of gentle, salt scented air wafting through the room, I get cars thumping music, horns and ambulances. Not a situation conducive to reading...or blogging, but I try.
I finished Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants in this very room, two flights above screeching brakes and and trembling bass. I had never read Gruen before, but knew that she had an affinity for animals in her writing. Water for Elephants is no different. It tells the story of Jacob, a veteranarian school dropout from Cornell who catches on with a traveling circus during The Depression. He becomes the defacto vet and becomes a member of the bizarre. What's unusual about this novel, at least what I found unusual, is that the freaks, geeks, fat ladies and clowns are secondary characters. Instead, Gruen focuses on the roustabouts and the animal handlers. Basically, we're given enough time to see otherside of the circus, where cruelty and good faith are often times blurred. Why? Because the world is like that.
Jacob of course falls in love with the beautiful Marlena who performs with the horses and the elephant Rosie. But it's Marlena's belligerent husband August that stands between the two lovers. Though the love affair is an obvious eventuality, Gruen handles the circus jargon and doesn't get tied up trying to explain it all too much. As Jacob learns the life of the circus, so do we.
Sara Gruen Water for Elephants
Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin