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A Son of the Circus [Leather Bound]

John Irving
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 1994
Born a Parsi in Bombay, sent to university and medical school in Vienna, Dr Farrokh Darwalla is a Canadian citizen living in Toronto. Twenty years ago he was the examining physician of two murder victims in Goa. Now 20 years later, the doctor becomes reacquainted with the murderer.

Product details

  • Leather Bound: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition, First Printing edition (1 Sep 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747517630
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747517634
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 18.3 x 5.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,678,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. He has been nominated for a National Book Award three times - winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. In 1992, Mr. Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules - a film with seven Academy Award nominations. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Last Night in Twisted River is John Irving's twelfth novel.

(Photo credit: Everett Irving)

Product Description


"Daruwalla is another iconic Irving figure... Irving handles this incarnadine combination of farce and horror with high speed skill, creating a compulsively readable book" (Guardian)

"[Irving] is at the peak of his powers... he plunges the reader into one sensual or grotesque scene after another with cheerful vigour and a madcap tenderness for life... entertainment on a grand scale" (Economist)

"More plot twists than the Ramayana and a cast of characters that includes dwarves, prostitutes, movie stars, tranvestites and at least one serial killer" (Daily Telegraph)

"Irving has given us that treat of treats, a wide-ranging fiction of massive design and length that encapsulates our world with intelligence and sugars the pill with wit" (Mail on Sunday)

"Daruwalla's quest for the truth is what sustains this book... a writer with the courage to follow this difficult journey while also exploring issues of poverty, racism and disease in a novel so full of humour is a writer to be treasured" (The Times) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

A masterpiece from one of the great contemporary American writers. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Acrobatic 11 Nov 2011
This is Irving in full-throttle "omniscient narrator" mode. All the craft is here, time jumps, foreshadowing, multiple viewpoints, non-linear structure, etc. The opinionated narrator leads the reader shamelessly through meanders in the plot. Though pace is arguably slow for the first half (of what is a long novel), the reader is amply rewarded with very funny scenes thereafter.

The theme is alienation, ostensibly that of the migrant, one who is not quite at home in the culture of his birth nor in his adopted land. But this theme also embraces the ambivalence the protagonist Dr Farrokh Daruwalla (an orthopaedic surgeon) feels toward Christianity and Catholicism, in particular.

Set predominantly in India, this novel brings to life the colour, smells, beauty, deprivation, harshness, and the conflicted influences and faiths at work in that land. Of course, being an Irving novel, there is nothing ordinary about Daruwalla's life. Continually drawn back to India to help crippled children, the doctor becomes fascinated by dwarfism and hopes to find the genetic basis for this condition through collection and DNA analysis of blood samples. This in turn leads him to the places where dwarfs are most readily available: circuses.

There is also a "writer's element" to the story, with the surgeon seeking creative expression through screenwriting for the Indian cinema. However, the surgeon's motives in this are again less than straightforward. He is creating a part - and an identity - for his stepbrother John. And John had a twin (Martin), separated at birth, who trains to become a Jesuit priest, bringing this review back to the above mentioned comedic scenes. Martin is a hoot.

This is an excellent read. Immerse yourself; don't rush at that cliff-edge of pages. In a fast-changing, messy world, spending time in this circus novel is perhaps as good a place to be as any. One way or another, we are all foreigners now.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite a tough read but worth the effort 11 May 2000
By A Customer
I found this book complicated but absorbing. The insight into Indian culture was most entertaining and as ever John Irving managed to keep me engrossed throughout. The flow and style of the descriptive writing in the final scene summarized beautifully the fundamental issues of the previous 800 pages. I was touched by the poignancy of those moments and the inevitable outcome.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars India well observed 13 May 2012
I bought my battered, brown paged copy of "aeA 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"(tm). These start with the words: "This novel isn'(tm)t about India. I don'(tm)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'(tm)m going to tell you a little story about my mother,'(tm) said Martin Mills. Somehow, Dr Daruwalla knew that the story wouldn't be '~little'. The missionary wasn‚(tm)t a minimalist; he favoured description. In fact, Martin left out no detail". This brief extract summarises Irving‚(tm)s writing perfectly, and accounts for the great length of this novel.

Page after page, the author keeps on introducing new characters bits of information and frequently 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‚(tm)t despair!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Wonderfully entertaining from start to finish. Having lived in India I must highly compliment David Colacci (the narrator) for the authentic accents he applied to all the characters. It was such a perfect portrayal of all I remembered of Bombay that it brought back all the sights, sounds, and smells I remember of that facinating country. Although John Irving stipulates that he had never lived in India, he wrote as if he was sitting on a balcony in Malabar Hill, recording all he saw before him. I hated to place that last cassete in my player and urge any one who is curious about life in India to listen to this book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Irving's Masterpiece 14 April 2003
The forward of the book makes certain mention that John Irving was only in India for about a month. The book was written like he was a typical Bombayite, and all of us from that area applaud him for the book. The storyline was, John Irving style, entertaining and outrageous, however, his research on the styles and the idiocyncracies of the Parsis was spot on. So much so, that I could not believe a man who had spent such a short time in a country could unlock its soul.
Well done, John Irving, in my eyes you are one of the best authors today!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Took time to get into
This took me a time to get into but once I was engaged I could not put it down. A memorable book
Published 4 months ago by Josephine Canty
4.0 out of 5 stars Son of the Circus by John Irving
Unusual subject matter, an Indian doctor, who lives in Canada but writes film scripts for a mega star in India and who just loves everything about the Circus! Read more
Published 7 months ago by P. A. Cunningham
5.0 out of 5 stars around India
Typical gripping John Irving book. Funny and sad. If you love India and have travelled around the wonderful mystical country. You get lost in the story and the characters . Read more
Published 12 months ago by C KHAN
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books
This is a great Bollywood of a book, slightly different from other John Irving stories. It contains all the great Bollywood story lines including twins separated at birth, Indian... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
Enjoyed reading this book. It was different and I could not wait to see what happened it was exciting read
Published 14 months ago by I have submited a review for this item. Thank you ,very efficent and prompt Thank you.
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating - and beautifully written
Now a Canadian citizen, Dr Farrokh Daruwalla lives and works in Canada but spends some time each year in his place of birth, Bombay, and it is in Bombay and India that we spend our... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Benjamin
1.0 out of 5 stars Stick to New England John
I have read all of John Irvings fiction. There are only 3 that I have put down without finishing. This is one of the them. Just didnt get it. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Kevin G. Conroy
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Irving
Classic Irving. If you know JI then I needn't say more. If you don't know JI then get reading right away.
Published on 29 Dec 2009 by G. Findlay
4.0 out of 5 stars A slow burner
I agree with those reviewers that found this something of a difficult book to get into - I nearly gave up about a quarter of the way through. Read more
Published on 27 Oct 2009 by EmmaH
4.0 out of 5 stars A sweeping novel by John Irving
This is a long, often hard novel but a very rewarding one. I started re-reading straight away and enjoyed it even more. Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2008 by A Customer
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