Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants was a near perfect reading experience for me. Fantastic characters and compelling story line set in an accurate and fascinating historical setting. I also completely fell into the atmosphere of the circus—in fact I was pleasantly surprised when Stephen King’s “Joyland” did the same for the carnival experience. At the Water’s Edge is close, but just not as good.
Don’t get me wrong. I blazed through this book because I really wanted to know how the story would turn out, but it just lacked the historical depth and atmosphere of Water for Elephants. Set in World War 2 in Scotland, our protagonist and her husband, along with a close friend, have run away from their self-created rich boy/girl problems in New York in search of a chance at redemption in a village close to Loch Ness. I believe Gruen was shooting for a Fitzgerald like dissoluteness, but I just came away feeling that these displaced Americans were no more than spoiled brats. I also feel that the opportunity to fully explore the horror of World War 2 from the European perspective was just glossed over to the point that it was no more moving and personal than a grainy old news reel. I really didn’t get a strong feel for the history of Scotland and the area either, or even the Nessie myth/creature.
Again, I must say that I enjoyed the story and read it quickly so that I could find out what happened. Gruen is a very good story teller. I gave the book an extra star because it was fun to read. I guess the best way to describe my feeling is to say that Water for Elephants was a historical and literary novel with some romantic elements and At the Water’s Edge was a romance with some historical elements, and I prefer the former rather than the latter.