Book Club Party – Welcome to the Bigtop!

A friend from work mentioned a few months back that she missed being in a book club.  So did I.   As we got to talking about what makes a book club great, we decided to try our hand at starting one.  We gathered a few ladies who also expressed interest in reading – and *viola* – our ladies book club was created! 

For our first book, we decided on The Help by Kathryn Stockett, mainly because the movie was to come out within our time frame for finishing the book.  We thought dinner, discussion, and a movie was the perfect kick-off!

I was nominated to pick the second book – and so I chose Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  I read the book when it first came out…and I remembered liking it…but couldn’t remember most of the details!  And besides, the movie was coming out on home video, and I thought it would be perfect for a dinner & home theater night!  I could put together a “Circus” themed dinner – we could discuss our favorite and least favorite parts of the book – and then watch the movie!


“I’m ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.”

That’s the opening line, followed by, “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.”


As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, a untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.  Copyright 2006 Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill


Planning the decorations and menu for this circus themed party was so much fun!  When I think big top and circus, I think red and white, big lollipops, popcorn and peanuts, hot dogs, and cotton candy.   I put my own twist on these items, and then some!

Lollipop and Gumball Centerpiece


For the serving table, I purchased a bright red plastic tablecloth.  Peanuts, pistachios, pretzels, and animal crackers were set out on the table for when guests arrived. 

“Rosie’s” Lemonade is a must have for any book club party!  We also had a variety of red and white wines to choose from, should anyone need a stiffer drink!

For appetizers, I served Mini Corn Dogs with Honey Mustard Sauce.  One of the girls brought apple slices with a cream cheese, caramel, and heath bar dip!  DELISH!

For the main meal, I served Jack Daniel’s BBQ pulled pork and pulled chicken. 

I left the snacks and desserts up to the guests, so we had a fun assortment to end our evening: Flavored Popcorn (Cotton Candy, Wedding Cake, and Boiled Crawfish), Peanut Butter Bars, Cracker Jacks, and Cotton Candy. 


Goodreads:  4.06 Stars (255,178 Reviews)
Amazon: 4.3 Stars (3,371 Reviews)
Barnes & Noble: 4.5 Stars (13.323 Reviews)
My Rating: 4 Stars.  This is a fabulous story about the dark side of life in a 1930’s circus. I thought it was very “raw.”


Water for Elephants went to the big screen on April 22, 2011, starring Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, and Reese Witherspoon.  To be honest – I had mixed feelings about the movie.  Any time you read the book first, you are bound to notice some differences on the big screen – but there were some glaringly different choices made for the movie adaptation.  I felt that the movie completely bypassed some of the novel’s quirky charms and period atmosphere.   The two most convincing characters were August (the Ringmaster husband) and Rosie (elephant of the show).   August is a man who’s obsessed with his wife, brutal to the animals, and handles cash-flow problems by chucking employees off the train – while it’s moving.  Alternating between unapologetic sadism and unexpected concern, August is easily the film’s most complicated and interesting personality.  Rosie is funny, sweet, and protective, and also the most vulnerable soul on the screen.  Her big moment in the film’s “not quite wild enough” climax is the best part of the scene.  As far as the other two main characters, Marlena (Reese) and Jacob (Robert) – I felt a serious lack of chemistry.  It seemed that their “love” was born not out of wonder and lust, but out of a united hatred for August.  That missing “spark” between the characters was, to me, what made the book truly dramatic and compelling.  Now – there were some truly good fun parts – and some truly felt brutal parts – so overall, I give the movie a 6.5/10.  

Image via: IMDB

Did you read the book?  Did you see the movie?  What are your thoughts?


One thought on “Book Club Party – Welcome to the Bigtop!

  1. I read both books and I can’t wait to see the movies. I love your ideas for the book club. The snacks went great with the book! 🙂 I have never been in one but I like that you were able to choose some of the good ones that you enjoy. I was always afraid of getting in one and not liking the choices.

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