Water for Elephants - a great read.
Okay, so I like romantic everything works out well good wins books. And why not?
Things don't always work out well for people so it's great when it does, even if it's only in books.
The circus setting lends to that etheral atmosphere while the events and character interactions are based in reality. Gruen does not glamorize the life of circus people. Her research is comprehensive.
The novel's structure also keeps the reader's attention as chapters move from the circus to the senior home, and aptly so mesh the two in the final scene. There is no way a reader's attention can wander unless it is to infer what might happen in the next few pages.
Does the movie live up to the novel's standards? Probably, as this story has all the makings of a great movie.
Take a look at this site for more info: http://saragruen.com/water-for-elephants/