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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen "A Whole Lotta Rosie!"

AC/DC do not appear in this book, nor do they get any kind of shoutout, more is the pity. The massive presence of Rosie in this book just reminds me of this headbanging classic.

I really shouldn't read Goodreads reviews before reading a book because some of them just give me a false expectations. One reviewer called it "Dumbo for adults" fercrissake! What was he smoking? Beside having an elephant that is more capable than she initially seems this book has nothing in common with Dumbo in the details or themes.

The focus of the book is almost entirely on the protagonist Jacob Jankowski. The first person narrative is from his point of view but switches back and forth between two timelines, that of the 20 something Jacob and the “90 or 93” version of the same character.

Young Jacob jumps on a circus train and soon finds himself joining them in the capacity of a veterinarian, meet some colorful characters, falling in love with a married performer and much wackiness ensues from there. In the alternate (not alternative) timeline old Jacob is a cantankerous old man in a nursing home who thinks he is either 90 or 93. For most of the book he just mopes around being a pain.

Personally I prefer the Young Jacob timeline, the old Jacob is a little too miserable for my liking. There is a lovely passage about ageing at the beginning of the old man’s first chapter though.

“When you’re five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties you know how old you are. I’m twenty-three, you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It’s a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I’m— you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you’re not. You’re thirty-five. And then you’re bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it’s decades before you admit it.”

Young Jacob has the recklessness of youth on his side, he never seems to pause for thought very much before doing something drastic. Consequently his life in the circus moves at a breakneck speed and is very entertaining to read. The supporting characters in this timeline are very well developed, the story does become a little too melodramatic for my taste at times, but the pacing never drags.

This is a very pleasant, breezy read. If there is a subtext to this story I must have missed it entirely, I don’t think there is an earth shattering insight to be found here. This is not a life changing book, but then what is wrong with your life that you would want a 350 pages novel to change it?

I would recommend it to anyone on Goodreads looking for a good read.