CHARACTERS Ö A Son of the Circus

A Son of the Circus

John Irving ☆ 1 CHARACTERS

Pshire JOHN IRVING is the author of eight novels among them The World According to Garp The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen MeanyMr Irving is married and has three sons; he lives in Vermont and in Toronto My favorite John Irving I'm having a bit of hard time to single out what makes this one a notch above the rest and above a huge number of others but I'm certain that the intriguing setting of India and this time perfect blend of joy of telling a story and strange but likeable characters are keys to the whole

CHARACTERS A Son of the Circus

Y where most of his patients are crippled childrenOnce 20 years ago Dr Daruwalla was the examining physician of two murder victims in Goa Now 20 years later he will be reacuainted with the murdererBorn in New Ham I bought my battered brown paged copy of “ A Son of the Circus” second hand at Blossoms Book House in Church Street Bangalore A previous owner had left an old used Bangladesh Biman airways boarding pass inside it I used this souvenir of a journey completed long ago as a bookmark By the time I finished this long book this fragile strip of paper was a mere shadow of its former self The book begins with some pages of ‘Author’s Notes’ These start with the words “ This novel isn’t about India I don’t know India I was there once for less than a month” I strongly disagree with this Irving may have only been in India for a short time but he has certainly managed to write a beautifully detailed account of the parts of the country that feature in this lengthy novel His eye for detail is amazing as is his ability to fondly and sympathetically characterise the Indians who appear in the story On page 635 of my copy published by Corgi in 1995 I read “ ‘I’m going to tell you a little story about my mother’ said Martin Mills Somehow Dr Daruwalla knew that the story wouldn’t be ‘little’ The missionary wasn’t a minimalist; he favoured description In fact Martin left out no detail” This brief extract summarises Irving’s writing perfectly and accounts for the great length of this novelPage after page the author keeps on introducing new characters bits of information and freuently goes off at a tangent with seemingly irrelevant sidetracking I found this a little disturbing at first but soon realised that almost everything that Irving introduces eventually helps to drive the plot later on So if you feel that you are not sure where the book is heading when you have read about 300 pages don’t despairI will not attempt to summarise the complicated plot which is at least as complex as and often even enjoyable than that of a long Bollywood film The only thing that this novel lacks is the song and dance scenes that make Bollywood movies so much fun to watch Needless to say Dr Daruwalla a Parsee physician who resides most of the year in Toronto with Julia his Austrian wife is the hero of this epic tale Not only does he cure cripples and perform medical research during his regular visits to Bombay but he also writes risué film scripts for Bollywood films His protégé Inspector Dhar is the hero of these films Martin Mills mentioned above is Dhar’s identical twin Trouble begins when Martin a fanatical Jesuit arrives in Bombay to take up missionary work But Daruwalla is already facing difficulties on account of his films having upset a large number of people including Rahul a malevolent transvestite who has recently married Mr Dogar a fellow member of the Duckworth Club which may be an alias for one of Bombay’s leading clubs such as the Willingdon Club If you want to know then get started on the oddly compelling “ A Son of The Circus” Although it has taken me ages to finish this book and the gold writing on its attractive green cover has worn away during many hours of holding it this is an exciting book an adventure or maybe even a thriller set in India I recommend it highly I intend reading other books by Irving but first let me tackle something briefer

SUMMARY ☆ SIGMAENCLOSURES.CO.UK ☆ John Irving

Born a Parsi in Bombay sent to university and medical school in Vienna Dr Farrokh Daruwalla is a 59 year old orthopedic surgeon and a Canadian citizen who lives in Toronto Periodically the doctor returns to Bomba The son of the circus from the title is Doctor Farokh Daruwalla a somewhat surprising choice as main character that has to carry on his shoulders such a hefty narrative At first glance he is a placid little man of a rather short stature and rotund girth neat and fussy but in general shy and insecure As I followed his interior monologues for page after page I have come to compare him to a still pond that hides great depths beneath the calm surface as a Parsi and a Christian a Bombayite and a Torontonian an orthopedic surgeon and a dwarf blood collector Dr Daruwalla could never have been satisfied by just one club The choice of focus on this confused conflicted personage was intentional on the part of the author who probably has little use for clear cut opinionated inflexible heroes And Dr Daruwalla is a true hero of the ordinary kind I'm thinking Ikiru trying to do good even when he is not sure of the right path doing unpaid work in children hospitals researching a cure for genetical dwarfism rescuing street urchins raising other people's abandoned offspring being a good husband and father volunteering to help the terminally ill His insecuritites and his unuenchable curiosity are in fact the motors that constantly push him forward together with a rampant imagination and ingrained sense of justice The doctor was no the incarnation of a god than he was a writer; he was like most men principally a dreamer Bored by the routine of a successful professional and family life he seeks to discharge his creative energies through writing specifically Bollywood film scripts His shyness and self deprecation will make him act from the shadows renouncing the limelight for the uiet satisfaction of the secret observer of human folly The results are often than not absolutely hilarious and I would rate A Son of the Circus as one of the best comedies I've read this year For sure the humor is often bitter and sarcastic aimed eually at the outside world and at his own person Farrokh had conceived Inspector Dhar in the spirit of satire — of uality satire Why were there so many easily offended people? Why had they reacted to Inspector Dhar so humorlessly? Had they no appreciation for comedy? Only now when he was almost 60 did it occur to Farrokh that he was his father's son in this respect he'd uncovered a natural talent for pissing people off or Except when eating Farrokh embraced procrastination as one greets an unexpected virtue Inspector Dhar is the doctor's most famous creation a tough Bombay policeman moulded as the exact opposite of the creator's personality athletic and uick witted a smooth operator when it comes to the ladies and an acerbic critic of the sins of his peers He is played in the movies by a friend of the doctor John D a younger man whose backstory and present tribulations are linked intimately to the main plotThe main plot is structured similarly to one of the doctor scripts a grotesue murder in the opening chapter a chase after a serial killer targetting prostitutes in the Bombay red lights district a pair of twins separated at birth a wily police inspector and his emotionally unstable wife beggars dwarves overbearing butlers a 20 years old unsolved case and so on The relation between the plot and the movie scripts is also deliberate illustrating the tendency of Dr Daruwalla to retreat into his imaginary world in times of stress where he uses the godlike powers of auhtorship in order to reshape events into a palatable version of reality one that makes sense and where lessons can be learned and happy endings are still a possibility Damn other people's messes Dr Daruwalla was muttering aloud He was a surgeon; as such he was an extremely neat and tidy man The sheer sloppiness of human relationships appalled him especially those relationships to which he felt he'd brought a special responsibility and care Brother sister brother brother child parent parent child What was the matter with human beings that they made such a shambles out of these basic relationships? As a character study the novel succeeds spectacularly in presenting not only the many facets of Dr Daruwalla but of all the numerous players gravitating around his stocky frame The narrative jumps effortlessly to these other points of view only to return to the anchor point of Farokh The actual timeline of the events cover less than two weeks of the doctor's visit to Bombay helping to give the story a sense of unity and simmetry but the pacing is leisurely with lengthy flashbacks within flashbacks going back decades to Farokh's early childhood fascination with the circus his studies and courtship in Austria a first contact with an American film crew in Bombay his medical career in Toronto his periodical returns to India his success as a scriptwriter The wealth of details is often overwhelming Irving is aware of the fact and turns it into a self referencing joke The missionary wasn't a minimalist; he favored description but my patience was rewarded when all the trivia turned out to have a role to play in the script after all No one who's still trying to find himself at thirty nine is very reliable exclaims Dr Daruwalla at one point in the story apparently unaware that he himself is still searching for his identity at the age of 60 His search leads him to religion to scientific studies to the already mentioned literary career Most of all his uestions relate to his cultural and spiritual heritage In Toronto Farrokh was an unassimilated Canadian – and an Indian who avoided the Indian community In Bombay the doctor was constantly confronted with how little he knew India – and how unlike an Indian he thought himself to be At this level the books scans as an overlong study of alienation with Farrokh reiterating a favorite phrase of his father An immigrant remains an immigrant all his life Rejected by extremists in his adopted land viewed with suspicion in India because of his Western mannerisms and sensibilities his plight will find resonance in readers like me who are bilingual and immersed in a foreign culture or two on a daily basis finding few chances to relate and discuss it with my immediate friends and family The theme of alienation is not limited to Farrokh Daruwalla it touches every secondary character in one form or another be they a Jesuit missionary a redneck girl on the run a transexual boygirl with long held grudges an actor with a double life a butler who feels superior to his patrons or a dwarf who can no longer perform in the circus In our hearts there must abide some pity for those people who have always felt themselves to be separate from even their most familiar surroundings those people who either are foreigners or who suffer a singular point of view that makes them feel as if they're foreigners – even in their native lands Dr Daruwalla seeks refuge in familiar places his exclusivist and rigidly traditional club his religious epiphany the love for his wife literature As with his scriptwriting the results are hilarious especially the story of his conversion to Catholicism or the discovery of the beneficial effects of purple prose during a second honeymoon Note to self check out James Salter A Sport and a Pastime Other literary references deal with religious identity mostly in the books of Graham Greene uoted repeatedly in the text and in the polemic between the doctor


About the Author: John Irving

JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter New Hampshire in 1942 His first novel Setting Free the Bears was published in 1968 when he was twenty six He competed as a wrestler for twenty years and coached wrestling until he was forty seven Mr Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once in 1980 for his novel The World According to Garp He received an O Henry Award



10 thoughts on “A Son of the Circus

  1. says:

    The son of the circus from the title is Doctor Farokh Daruwalla a somewhat surprising choice as main character that has to carry on his shoulders such a hefty narrative At first glance he is a placid little man of a rather short stature and rotund girth neat and fussy but in general shy and insecure As I followed his interior monologues for page after page I have come to compare him to a still pond that hides great depths beneath the calm surface as a Parsi and a Christian a Bombayite and a Torontonian an orthopedic surgeon and a dwarf blood collector Dr Daruwalla could never have been satisfied by just one club The choice of focus on this confused conflicted personage was intentional on the part of the author who probably has little use for clear cut opinionated inflexible heroes And Dr Daruwalla is a true hero of the ordinary kind I'm thinking Ikiru trying to do good even when he is not sure of the right path doing unpaid work in children hospitals researching a cure for genetical dwarfism rescuing street urchins raising other people's abandoned offspring being a good husband and father volunteering to help the terminally ill His insecuritites and his unuenchable curiosity are in fact the motors that constantly push him forward together with a rampant imagination and ingrained sense of justice The doctor was no the incarnation of a god than he was a writer; he was like most men principally a dreamer Bored by the routine of a successful professional and family life he seeks to discharge his creative energies through writing specifically Bollywood film scripts His shyness and self deprecation will make him act from the shadows renouncing the limelight for the uiet satisfaction of the secret observer of human folly The results are often than not absolutely hilarious and I would rate A Son of the Circus as one of the best comedies I've read this year For sure the humor is often bitter and sarcastic aimed eually at the outside world and at his own person Farrokh had conceived Inspector Dhar in the spirit of satire — of uality satire Why were there so many easily offended people? Why had they reacted to Inspector Dhar so humorlessly? Had they no appreciation for comedy? Only now when he was almost 60 did it occur to Farrokh that he was his father's son in this respect he'd uncovered a natural talent for pissing people off or Except when eating Farrokh embraced procrastination as one greets an unexpected virtue Inspector Dhar is the doctor's most famous creation a tough Bombay policeman moulded as the exact opposite of the creator's personality athletic and uick witted a smooth operator when it comes to the ladies and an acerbic critic of the sins of his peers He is played in the movies by a friend of the doctor John D a younger man whose backstory and present tribulations are linked intimately to the main plotThe main plot is structured similarly to one of the doctor scripts a grotesue murder in the opening chapter a chase after a serial killer targetting prostitutes in the Bombay red lights district a pair of twins separated at birth a wily police inspector and his emotionally unstable wife beggars dwarves overbearing butlers a 20 years old unsolved case and so on The relation between the plot and the movie scripts is also deliberate illustrating the tendency of Dr Daruwalla to retreat into his imaginary world in times of stress where he uses the godlike powers of auhtorship in order to reshape events into a palatable version of reality one that makes sense and where lessons can be learned and happy endings are still a possibility Damn other people's messes Dr Daruwalla was muttering aloud He was a surgeon; as such he was an extremely neat and tidy man The sheer sloppiness of human relationships appalled him especially those relationships to which he felt he'd brought a special responsibility and care Brother sister brother brother child parent parent child What was the matter with human beings that they made such a shambles out of these basic relationships? As a character study the novel succeeds spectacularly in presenting not only the many facets of Dr Daruwalla but of all the numerous players gravitating around his stocky frame The narrative jumps effortlessly to these other points of view only to return to the anchor point of Farokh The actual timeline of the events cover less than two weeks of the doctor's visit to Bombay helping to give the story a sense of unity and simmetry but the pacing is leisurely with lengthy flashbacks within flashbacks going back decades to Farokh's early childhood fascination with the circus his studies and courtship in Austria a first contact with an American film crew in Bombay his medical career in Toronto his periodical returns to India his success as a scriptwriter The wealth of details is often overwhelming Irving is aware of the fact and turns it into a self referencing joke The missionary wasn't a minimalist; he favored description but my patience was rewarded when all the trivia turned out to have a role to play in the script after all No one who's still trying to find himself at thirty nine is very reliable exclaims Dr Daruwalla at one point in the story apparently unaware that he himself is still searching for his identity at the age of 60 His search leads him to religion to scientific studies to the already mentioned literary career Most of all his uestions relate to his cultural and spiritual heritage In Toronto Farrokh was an unassimilated Canadian – and an Indian who avoided the Indian community In Bombay the doctor was constantly confronted with how little he knew India – and how unlike an Indian he thought himself to be At this level the books scans as an overlong study of alienation with Farrokh reiterating a favorite phrase of his father An immigrant remains an immigrant all his life Rejected by extremists in his adopted land viewed with suspicion in India because of his Western mannerisms and sensibilities his plight will find resonance in readers like me who are bilingual and immersed in a foreign culture or two on a daily basis finding few chances to relate and discuss it with my immediate friends and family The theme of alienation is not limited to Farrokh Daruwalla it touches every secondary character in one form or another be they a Jesuit missionary a redneck girl on the run a transexual boygirl with long held grudges an actor with a double life a butler who feels superior to his patrons or a dwarf who can no longer perform in the circus In our hearts there must abide some pity for those people who have always felt themselves to be separate from even their most familiar surroundings those people who either are foreigners or who suffer a singular point of view that makes them feel as if they're foreigners – even in their native lands Dr Daruwalla seeks refuge in familiar places his exclusivist and rigidly traditional club his religious epiphany the love for his wife literature As with his scriptwriting the results are hilarious especially the story of his conversion to Catholicism or the discovery of the beneficial effects of purple prose during a second honeymoon Note to self check out James Salter A Sport and a Pastime Other literary references deal with religious identity mostly in the books of Graham Greene uoted repeatedly in the text and in the polemic between the doctor and the missionaryI'm not an expert on the work of John Irving beside Cider House Rules but it appears social issues and a general uality of mercy towards his characters are a constant feature of his novels Intransigence homosexuality the exploitation of children poverty drug abuse alcoholism religious fervor are among the hot button issues touched upon in the text The intensity of emotions and the subtlety of the observations make me recommend the book wholeheartedly but my own struggles with the text I spent two months on it instead of the usual 7 10 days stop me short of a full endorsement I experienced a lack of urgency a self indulgent streak for getting lost in minute details and painful moral considerations that illustrate well the personality of Farrokh but stopped me from reading than a few pages at a timeOn another personal note a comparison to my other sprawling Indian saga I've read this year The Midnight Children is inevitable Salman Rushdie and John Irving have little in common stylistically and the personalities of the main protagonists could not be divergent one a riotous volcanic extrovert subversive and irreverent in language and deed the other a laidback introspective meticulous and detached observer yet I found both accounts true to human nature with their differences important than their similarities in revealing an Indian culture too big and too wild to fit into a rigid frameworkI would like to close with some praises for the author's use of metaphor and catchphrases oneliners reiterated like a song refrain many dealing with the circus world even if the actual story only visits the circus in a short episode For Farrokh Daruwalla though the circus comes to represent the whole meaning of life from the childhood exuberance of miracles possible to the ever present danger falling into the net and constant struggle for survival and ultimately to the revelation of the whole grotesue absurdity of reality Since the show must go on all we can ultimately do is relax and enjoy the rideedit 2016 spelling


  2. says:

    This is the 8th book in my John Irving Challenge I only have five books left As I said in my review of the previous book A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving was not the best choice for a year long chronological study of an author's growth and decline His books and characters are far too similar I do not suggest recreating this project with this author On with the reviewBy Goodreads standards two stars euals okay I wish there was something between okay and I hated it because that's where I'm at with this book I didn't hate the book but it's also far from okay For the most part A Son of the Circus is a disjointed rambling meandering mess of a novel Part of the problem here is the omniscient narration To have been written by such an accomplished award winning author the book is amateur hour Examples of good omniscient narration would be parts of Stephen King's It and all of Frank Herbert's Dune Those two books read naturally whereas this one reads like a clunky nightmare I had to reread whole sub chapters because I didn't know what had happened to who andor I'd fallen asleep mid sentence Which brings me to the fact that this book is boring as fuck This is compounded by the fact that whole sections of it go absolutely nowhere with little to no emotional payoff The serial killer plot? It fizzles out The circus performers lives go nowhere We're asked to care about people in the final chapter who we never truly know Madhu was important? Since when? We knew very little about her other than her being a child prostitute Ganesh? He was offscreen forever and then the end comes and you expect me to feel something? I felt bad for Vinod in the end but everyone else was just well they were just there Not even Martin and John D had satisfying endings Simply put this didn't feel like a John Irving novel aside from Martin Mills being the reincarnation of Owen Meany Seriously Same character less CAPSLOCK That being said the final subchapter with Daruwalla was terrific It was touching and heartfelt and poignant and it made me wonder what happened to the last 670 pages It didn't feel like the same book And that gives me a theory I believe so many Irving fans myself included are enad with this book because of the way he ended it You can hate entire chapters even hundreds of pages at a time but then you get to the end and he sticks the landing This gives you a false sense that the book as a whole was far better than it actually was The problem with my theory is it's glaringly obvious how terrible the rest of the book is It's just not any fun to read And then I'm given a gorgeous closing chapter and I sit back and say Man what the fuck was that? Did the same author write the rest of the book? Sure as shit doesn't feel like itSo if I'm pressed I give the majority of the book one star Even though there are numerous uote worthy lines the style and meandering narration kill all enjoyment But I can't give it a one star because of that final subchapter Thus I'm giving it two stars Overall it was just okay Still I wouldn't recommend itFinally where's all the circus shit I was promised? There's very little in here Maybe 100 pages of 680 pages have anything remotely circus related How the fuck you gonna title a book A SON OF THE CIRCUS and give a reader so little circus time That's fucked up manIn summation I tried reading this with two other friends who I've rarely seen uit books One of them buys Ruth Ware novels even though he's never read a Ruth Ware novel he's liked If that ain't a dedication to finishing something man I don't know what is Both of them uit this book before page 400 Mostly because of the reasons I stated in this review I only hung around because of this challenge I'm doing Had I picked this up on a whim I'd have tossed it in a fire by page 200 Which would've been sad because then I'd never have read that final subchapter and that final subchapter damn near made the entire book worth the read CrazyFinal Judgment Irving's worst novel for now


  3. says:

    My favorite Irving book I have a lovehate relationship with Irving's work Son is a madhouse of a novel even for Irving The plots are dizzyingly complicated; the characters as bizarre as always but somehow believable I loved the feeling for India in the book; and the humor oh my The scene in the cab made me laugh until I cried thus waking up my husband as I was reading in bed If you can tolerate really really weird situations don't mind some mild but off the wall sexual references and just want to read something completely different this is a book for you


  4. says:

    Returning for a second novel by John Irving I was transported to India where the culture shock was massive and the storytelling proved to be uite non linear All that being said with patience and perseverance I made it through this uniue piece of writing and even feel that I enjoyed it The circus is preparing for its next performance and as always there is something going on that is of interest In India the use of Achondroplastic dwarfs is uite common in the circus allowing for some of the tricks to seem even death defying However it is not that which interests Dr Farrokh Daruwalla Instead he prefers to locate a gene that might identify this dwarfism trying to do so every time he returns home to Toronto That Dr Daruwalla is an orthopaedic surgeon seems of little concern to him or anyone else though his medical specialty is also relevant at times As Dr Daruwalla is unable to locate a dwarf genetic marker he is back for blood testing in hopes of being lucky this one time While dining with a friend at the private club Dr Daruwalla is alerted to a murder on the golf course where someone has been struck by a club Unable to decipher what has gone on Dr Daruwalla uses some of his intuition to deduce what could have happened Little known to anyone Dr Daruwalla is the author of a series of screenplays about an Inspector Dhar one of India’s most renowned film stars This is truly the central premise of the book—finding out who murdered the club member on the ninth green—but there is so much backstory to decipher about a handful of characters and how their interactions over the span of forty years has led to this point Irving weaves many highly intricate storylines together most in India to tell of how the elder Dr Daruwalla taught his son Farrokh some of the ins and outs of orthopaedics and what a chance filming of a horrible movie in India did for the community as well as how it enriched the next generation of people who come to play their part in this book From child prostitutes to accepted and praised alternative lifestyles all of these flavourings of India come together to create this massive tome that has uite the story to tell as long as the reader is patient and attentive in eual measure Well crafted but not for all readers I found this to be yet another winner by John Irving Recommended for the type of reader who can handle tangential writing as well as those who love all things IndianI will be the first to admit that this book will not be for everyone I read this book and found myself stuck within the story but could tell that had this been my first Irving I likely would have pulled the plug It does not read in a linear fashion in the least leaping from different timelines in order to fill in many of the cracks and offer backstories for the characters Irving has so many characters that I chose not to hone in on one to be labelled protagonist Rather he fills the chapters with a wonderfully complex and non linear story that has tangents than a high school math class It is by focussing on these stories as central building blocks to the larger narrative that the reader can see how things piece themselves together I found myself able to devour large chunks of the story at once if only to better comprehend how things fit together Irving’s style of detailed discussions will surely cause some readers to feel drowned while others will relish the experience With long chapters that are broken into small vignettes the reader can digest Irving’s massive undertaking in manageable bites With a uniue story and many strong characters this piece by John Irving is not to be missed by those who have the patience and fortitudeKudos Mr Irving for this wonderful piece that challenged me from the start and throughout This book serves to fulfil the March 2020 reuirement of the Mind the Bookshelf Gap reading groupLovehate the review? An ever growing collection of others appears at Book for All Seasons a different sort of Book Challenge


  5. says:

    I read this book by accident and discovered how rich a a story can be


  6. says:

    I bought my battered brown paged copy of “ A Son of the Circus” second hand at Blossoms Book House in Church Street Bangalore A previous owner had left an old used Bangladesh Biman airways boarding pass inside it I used this souvenir of a journey completed long ago as a bookmark By the time I finished this long book this fragile strip of paper was a mere shadow of its former self The book begins with some pages of ‘Author’s Notes’ These start with the words “ This novel isn’t about India I don’t know India I was there once for less than a month” I strongly disagree with this Irving may have only been in India for a short time but he has certainly managed to write a beautifully detailed account of the parts of the country that feature in this lengthy novel His eye for detail is amazing as is his ability to fondly and sympathetically characterise the Indians who appear in the story On page 635 of my copy published by Corgi in 1995 I read “ ‘I’m going to tell you a little story about my mother’ said Martin Mills Somehow Dr Daruwalla knew that the story wouldn’t be ‘little’ The missionary wasn’t a minimalist; he favoured description In fact Martin left out no detail” This brief extract summarises Irving’s writing perfectly and accounts for the great length of this novelPage after page the author keeps on introducing new characters bits of information and freuently goes off at a tangent with seemingly irrelevant sidetracking I found this a little disturbing at first but soon realised that almost everything that Irving introduces eventually helps to drive the plot later on So if you feel that you are not sure where the book is heading when you have read about 300 pages don’t despairI will not attempt to summarise the complicated plot which is at least as complex as and often even enjoyable than that of a long Bollywood film The only thing that this novel lacks is the song and dance scenes that make Bollywood movies so much fun to watch Needless to say Dr Daruwalla a Parsee physician who resides most of the year in Toronto with Julia his Austrian wife is the hero of this epic tale Not only does he cure cripples and perform medical research during his regular visits to Bombay but he also writes risué film scripts for Bollywood films His protégé Inspector Dhar is the hero of these films Martin Mills mentioned above is Dhar’s identical twin Trouble begins when Martin a fanatical Jesuit arrives in Bombay to take up missionary work But Daruwalla is already facing difficulties on account of his films having upset a large number of people including Rahul a malevolent transvestite who has recently married Mr Dogar a fellow member of the Duckworth Club which may be an alias for one of Bombay’s leading clubs such as the Willingdon Club If you want to know then get started on the oddly compelling “ A Son of The Circus” Although it has taken me ages to finish this book and the gold writing on its attractive green cover has worn away during many hours of holding it this is an exciting book an adventure or maybe even a thriller set in India I recommend it highly I intend reading other books by Irving but first let me tackle something briefer


  7. says:

    DNF Page 355 Yep I'm giving up after investing so much time into this shaggy dog of a novel I wanted to like it really Irving is one of my favorite authors and reading his stuff is always an uniue experience But this thing is ALL over the place it doesn't know what it wants to be or why I can't keep up with the ever expanding cast of characters nor can I find a reason to care about them I don't know where the hell this thing is going and I'm only halfway done I just cannot keep goingStill Irving's prose is impeccable in places and I did like a couple of the characters — hence my 2 stars Maybe I will finish this one day I buddy read this with my friend Edward We will be tackling A Widow for a Year next


  8. says:

    My favorite John Irving I'm having a bit of hard time to single out what makes this one a notch above the rest and above a huge number of others but I'm certain that the intriguing setting of India and this time perfect blend of joy of telling a story and strange but likeable characters are keys to the whole


  9. says:

    I've always been a John Irving fan but this one took me by surprise It has a very slow start I found myself struggling to get into it thinking Why on earth would I care about an Indian circus and an Orthopedist's uest for dwarf blood? And yeah it's exactly as weird as it sounds at least at first I almost gave it up Suddenly though after I pushed through the first two chapters the dozens of characters started to gain their own identities and all of a sudden bang I was in an Irving novel This book surprisingly at least to me had the almost certainly unintended and definitely unanticipated effect of making me want to learn about India Which is weird since as the book makes clear time and time again it's not really about India It's part detective mystery part rumination on global racial relations part unapologetic schmaltz funny as hell and surprisingly heartbreaking it has a sneaky habit like than one of Irving's books of catching you off guard You'd think I'd be ready for him by now but it seems like I never am This novel is a lot like A Prayer for Owen Meany in that its last chapters wherein everything starts getting wrapped up have a sense of mourning about them at least in a general time marches on kind of sense that's sort of hard to pin down I really love this book It's kind of a slog at 682 pages but I think I read it every single night for two weeks Highly highly recommended


  10. says:

    On some level it hurts me to write this review I first discovered Irving’s books in high school and fell for them hard The obsession uieted down after a few years but seeing his name was enough to give me nostalgia A Son of the Circus has been in my to read pile for literal years and if I hadn’t procrastinated so much maybe I would have been kinder in this review Maybe I would have found some enjoyment in it Unfortunately this book was an absolute slog to say the least The actual plot is fairly simple – the issue is that all too often the plot is buried in flashbacks or flashbacks within flashbacks or tangents that traverse several pages or even chapters By the time the story comes back around it’s easy to forget what has actually happened in the present timeline Sure these flashbacks and tangents may be rich in detail Irving’s eye for that sort of thing for making environments come alive is on full display here but the detail overwhelms rather than enhances the story as you’re forced to wade through pages and pages of filler to find one detail that has a modicum of relevance to the actual plot Perhaps most frustratingly of all after over 600 pages the plot just peters off The climax of the book passes by in the blink of an eye – the event that the book has apparently been leading up to has such a weak payoff that you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d missed a few crucial pages The plot isn’t the only issue What I found egregious especially as I made it towards the mid point of the book and realized I still had over three hundred pages left to go was the repetition Certain phrases and expressions are utterly overused – it seemed like “Dr Daruwalla cried” appeared every other page and the that was used along with descriptors such as exclaimed or shouted the Dr Daruwalla came off as completely hysterical and overdramatic rather than the intelligent wise man he’s supposed to be Additionally characters are referred to by descriptors over and over again – Martin Mills is referred to as “the scholastic” and Dr Daruawalla is interchangeably referred to as “the screenwriter” or “the doctor” far too many times as if Irving is afraid that we will forget what these characters do if we aren’t reminded every other page On a related note the characters are also difficult to keep track of because in addition to their descriptors almost all of them have at least two names and there’s no rhyme or reason as to which name they’re referred to at any given time On a single page Irving may switch between John D Inspector Dhar or simply Dhar multiple times Perhaps this was supposed to be a comment on the different roles we all play in our lives but it’s done so haphazardly that it isn’t very effective Also if you’re looking forward to reading this book solely for the circus element – don’t bother Considering the title the circus features surprisingly little in the book and when it is discussed Dr Daruwalla’s love of the circus doesn’t come off as convincing – he elevates some of the performers to almost divine figures but I never really got a sense of why However while all of the above certainly contributed to my low rating of this book there’s one factor that on its own would have convinced me to give A Son of the Circus a single star rating This book is nearly thirty years old and I want to give Irving the benefit of the doubt but I would also pay him all of my savings to never write about trans andor gender diverse people again Their treatment in this book is simply abhorrent They are used for shock value; you’re repeatedly bludgeoned with the fact that they’re freakish disgusting and worthy of mockery They’re constantly reduced to nothing than their sexual organspractices and the ‘bizarre’ nature of those organspractices At one point the term “it” is used in reference to one trans character and I came very close to flicking the book out the nearest window Not to mention that the trope of having the trans character being the villainantagonist is tired and completely unnecessary Even in 1994 I imagine that it was getting old In conclusion I’m tired The last few of Irving’s books that I’ve read have been merely disappointing This one left a bad taste in my mouth one that even my fond memories of The Hotel New Hampshire and A Prayer for Owen Meany can’t erase To uote a line from the book which like everything else was overused as soon as it was introduced it’s “time to slip away” from reading any of Irving’s work


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