July 19, 2011

"It's showtime!"

"Life is the most spectacular show on Earth"- Sarah Gruen

It's been a while since I read a book; quite shameful. But I picked 'Water for Elephants' off my Mum's bookshelf, because I wanted to read it before I watched the movie. It was a pretty easy read and managed to finish it in a day. I had a cold that day and felt quite miserable, so I stayed in bed with the book and a few cups of lemon and honey tea. 

It was quite an exciting book. The functioning of a circus troop in the 1930's was definitely a fresh read. She (Sarah Gruen) used a similar concept to the Nicholas Sparks movie, The Notebook, with a alternating past and present narrative. I liked this contrast- cold, white, nursing home to the colourful energy of the circus.

The story focuses on the life of Jacob Jankowski and his journey from the exam halls of Cornell University to the circus train of the Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show on Earth! It is not just a transition of lifestyle, but a journey that accounted for change in mental growth- a test of patience, trust and moral standards. And of course, a battle (including blood, bruises and black eyes) for Marlena, the girl of his dreams. 
"I want her to melt into me, like butter on toast. I want to absorb her and walk around for the rest of my days with her encased in my skin."

The story is set during the Depression, and explains its effects on the functioning of a circus. It brings to light the perspective of priority. In the circus, first priority to the animals, second to the people. Priority on the basis of food and shelter. Rightly so, because, what would a circus be without them?

The characters (main and subordinate), although not enough personality building in the book, are as unique and bizarre as the settings itself.  From a nerdy dwarf, schizophrenic tamer, 800 pound showstopper, and a polish elephant, to a toothless lion, a well bosomed entertainer, a paralyzed drunkard and even a pickled hippopotamus! 

Aside from the dazzle and glitter of the performance, is the grime and the tediousness of giving it that appearance. 
"'I've never seen so much manure.' 
'Baggage stock horses. They pack 'em in 27 a car.'
'How do you stand the smell?'
'What smell?'" 

The story is overall predictable, despite its initial excitement- Boy meets girl, they fall in love, girl runs away with boy. But it's knitted together quite intricately with bursts of unexpected fantasy. 

It's a one time, enjoyable read. The old photographs in the book added a touch of reality to a seemingly fairy tale story.

The movie- Of course as movies do, added its own glamour to the story. One such instance is when they instantaneously decide to escape off a moving train. 'Come with me', followed by longing gaze into each others eyes, hands clasp and they jump into the unknown darkness. It cut out a few characters and merged 2 into 1. But that is expected when condensing 300 odd pages into 90 minutes.

The setting was more or less what I imagined from reading the book. Robert Pattinson is definitely more appealing as compared to his ghostly white faced vampire counterpart.

Rosie is my favourite character, followed by the ninety or ninety-three year old Jacob.
She is a whiskey-loving, lemonade stealing, polish speaking, comedian with wrinkly grey skin and a trunk. Old Mr. Jacob, despite his wobbly knees and translucent skin, has a mind that believes he isn't ready to be old and certainly isn't ready to eat soft, tasteless mush. And after a life of excitement, old age leaves Jacob with nothing but time for reminiscence.
"So what if I'm ninety-three? So what if I'm ancient and cranky and my body's a wreck? If they're willing to accept me and my guilty conscience, why the hell shouldn't I run away with the circus?"

All in all, my day was not wasted. And the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction miraculously took away my cold. Actually, I think it was lemon & honey tea. :)

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