Best seller has ties to Norwich, stirs circus memories

NORWICH – A widely-read novel, “Water For Elephants” – on the New York Times Best Seller list for 20 weeks – not only references Norwich, but also evokes memories of the circus train that once traveled through the county’s seat.

The story (now also a film) follows Cornell veterinarian student Jacob Jankowski’s indoctrination into circus life aboard the traveling Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It’s a love story that features an unruly elephant, a horseback riding aerialist, freak shows and all the pageantry of the circus juxtaposed with animal brutality, caste violence and Depression-era poverty.

The book’s author, Sara Guen, places Jankowski’s hometown in Norwich. But like the name of the circus company itself, which is fictional, the author’s choice of Norwich was purely happenstance. Guen’s publisher said Norwich was about the right size and situated about the right distance from Cornell.

Town of Norwich Supervisor David C. Law said a former Norwich High School classmate called and suggested that he read “Water For Elephants” because the main character was coincidentally from Norwich and because he knew of Law’s passion – and work – for the circus.

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