I finished reading Water for Elephants a while back and keep meaning to write about it. I loved this book. In a nutshell, it's about life as part of a circus troupe during the Great Depression. The story is thoroughly engaging and the characters are colorful and over-the-top. At first I was a bit disbelieving of the characters, but then I thought about how flamboyant a circus is and reasoned that circus people may very well be that over-the-top when they're not performing as well, kind of like how today's celebrities are still celebrities when they're not performing. They're just always "on."
The circus life is anything but glamourous, and there's a clear caste division between performers and roustabouts. And the main character, Jacob Jankowski, encounters numerous problems as the Cornell-educated circus vet because he's neither a performer nor a roustabout but a little bit of both and somewhere in between—the permormers depend on him to keep the animals healthy enough for their acts, but he works more closely with the roustabouts who actually tend the animals. Jacob is constantly regarded with suspicion by both groups and when he falls for a married performer, well the story gets even more complicated.
As I was reading, I seriously kept seeing the story as a screenplay. One of those Tim Burton—Johnny Depp-esque collaborations, maybe with John Malkovich, Ed Norton, or Gary Sinise and maybe doe-y Anne Hathaway or Zooey Deschanel as the female lead.