As a kid, I loved those boxes of Barnum’s Animal Crackers. (Okay, who am I kidding? I still love them. I have to talk myself out of purchasing them each and every time I see them.) I always wanted to retain the boxes after the crackers were gone to play traveling circus. This probably would have been more successful if I hadn’t had a dog who would rip them apart, searching for the animal crackers he could still smell.
In any event, I was always interested in the circus, and I liked to imagine what I would do if I were part of the circus. I’m not much of a gymnast (I can’t even do a cartwheel) and my balance has never been the best (I fall down more than any adult I know), and so I ruled out being a trapeze artist or a tightrope walker. I also ruled out being a fire-eater; I had set the dining room table cloth aflame once and therefore didn’t think my mother would allow me to practice any skills involving fires. I certainly didn’t want to be a clown.
I decided that I would be a lion tamer. I tried to practice with my dog, but Homer was older than I was and thoroughly uninterested. It’s possible, of course, that he was offended at being asked to portray a lion. Maybe he would have been more amenable if I had asked him to be a wolf.
Accordingly, when Water for Elephants came out, I pounced on it. I read the whole thing in just over one day. I was spending a weekend up on Lake Michigan with some girlfriends, and I spent my time on the beach with my nose buried in the book, only looking up when someone offered me a cocktail. I re-read the book this past Sunday, and I read the whole book in one sitting.1 It is, obviously, a quick read. It’s not the type of literary fiction that I usually love, the kind that inspires me to write, but it is the fun, entertaining kind of fiction that makes me want to own an elephant.
I had re-read the book because my sorority sisters had a planned outing to see the movie last night, as well as the idea of it being the first book in the book club we’re starting. I hadn’t held out many hopes for the movie – books are always better than movies.2 I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed the movie. The movie takes some liberties, of course, that I found disappointing, but, that’s to be expected. Movies can’t follow books to the letter; there simply isn’t enough time. The film was at least faithful to the spirit of the book, and it was entertaining. If I hadn’t known anything about the book, I would have really enjoyed it. It’s about running away to join the circus; how could I not enjoy it?
My recommendation: Read the book and see the movie, but not necessarily in that order.
1 Actually, that’s not entirely accurate: I walked to the park, read for a few hours, realized I was starving, briefly left the park to purchase a bagel, and returned to the park where I ate my bagel and read the book at the same time.
2 Except for when they’re not.