Book vs. Movie: Water for Elephants

Book vs. Movie: Water for Elephants

Time for another Book vs. Movie! This time it’s Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. It’s the story of Jacob, who runs away to the circus during the Depression when his life falls apart around him. There, he works as the show’s vet, and falls ever more in love with Marlena, the star of the circus and beautiful wife of the temperamental ringmaster August. When the circus acquires an elephant for a new act, it changes everything.

I read the book back in October on the way home from New York – between the airport layover and actual flights, I finished it in one day. To say I liked it might be understating things. And this past week, I finally got around to watching the movie. Happily, it was a pretty faithful adaptation, and I liked it, too. But here’s a break-down of which format did what better:




  • A really good read that pulls on your heartstrings and makes you laugh.
  • A good length – not too quick, not too long/slow.
  • The ending – satisfying, and all wrapped up.
  • Explains circus lingo in an unobtrusive way.
  • Did a better job of painting a picture of Depression-era America.
  • Christoph Waltz – he played his character (August) perfectly. And I’m guessing playing a charming sociopath isn’t easy. But man. He was at turns likable and scary, just like in the book.
  • Really good job of condensing the whole book into 2 hours while hitting all of the most important plot points.
  • Still a good ending, though I found it less believable in this format.
  • Beautiful cinematography and great costumes.


  • It jumped between present-day Jacob and his memories a bit too much. I preferred how they did it in the movie, with just a small intro and closure with him as an old man.
  • Robert Pattinson. I’m normally just indifferent to him as an actor (I don’t hold Twilight against him or anything), but I didn’t think he was the best fit for Jacob, the main character. Though he did pull off the Polish well.
  • It kind of glossed over some of the side storylines regarding Jacob’s fellow circus workers (pay issues, illness from jake, red-lighting). They were present, but not given the attention they got in the book.

Rosie (the elephant) was adorable in both. Overall, I really liked both the book and the movie, and I think you’ll get an equally good story experience from either format.

Have you read the book or seen the movie? What did you think?

I give both 4/5 stars.

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Water for Elephants


Hi, I’m Amanda!

I’m a self-employed graphic designer by day, and a crafty hungry bookworm by night. Dragonflight Dreams is where I write about books, recipes, internet goodies, life things, crafty projects, Austin happenings, and more.

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