I read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen sometime last year when I was working & living in Gettysburg. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times-- it pays to work in libraries and I will always need to work in one. You get first pick of new books, first pick of returned books, the opportunities to browse bookshelves when you are re-shelving and, the pièce de résistance, no fines! Seriously, it's the best.
Anyway, I found it in the library, finally made time to read it and loved it. I told all my friends about it and eagerly awaited her next novel. It took me ages to finally see the movie. But it was totally worth the wait! I was hesitant, I must admit, to see Rob Pattinson play the lead. I was not thrilled with his role in Twilight and I had little hope for him. However, I am glad to admit that I was dead wrong.
With the time that had passed between my original reading and viewing of the film, I can't say how close the two were. I was pleased with the film and ,based on what I remember, was quite close to the book.
As always, I recommend reading the book first. However, seeing the movie will not ruin the beauty of the story. And maybe it will renew your faith in Robert Pattinson, too!