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A Widow For One Year [Paperback]

John Irving
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

1 Jun 1999

'One night when she was four and sleeping in the bottom bunk of her bunk bed, Ruth Cole awoke to the sound of lovemaking - it was coming from her parents' bedroom.'

This is the story of Ruth Cole. It is told in three parts: on Long Island, in the summer of 1958, when she is only four; in 1990, when she is an unmarried woman whose personal life is not nearly as successful as her literary career; and in the autumn of 1995, when Ruth Cole is a forty-one-year-old widow and mother. She's also about to fall in love for the first time...

Frequently Bought Together

A Widow For One Year + The World According To Garp (Black Swan) + A Prayer For Owen Meany
Price For All Three: 19.37

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (1 Jun 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055299796X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552997966
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,698 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


"Wickedly knowing, mischievously post-modern and magical realist along the lines of Gunter Grass, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Robertson Davies" (Time Out)

"Gripping, full of horror and humour" (Literary Review)

"A compelling chronicle of love and loss... His most intricate and fully imagined novel" (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Irving's storytelling has never been better" (New York Times)

"His best since Garp" (Time)

Book Description

A masterpiece from one of the great contemporary American writers.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic John Irving! 30 Sep 2002
Having not read a John Irving novel since The Cider House Rules, I wasn't sure I could reacquire the taste for his methods of storytelling. By the very first page of A Widow For One Year, however, I was hooked. This book has the usual Irving mixture of tragedy, comedy, romance, and, of course, sex. And yes...I am man enough to admit that by the end of the book I was moved to tears!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
I've read and enjoyed a few other John Irving books and this book did not disappoint. If you liked 'The World According To Garp' and 'Hotel New Hampshire' you'll love this book. Told in three distinct sections (much like acts of a play), it presents the life of Ruth Cole centrally, but also the many colourful characters who inhabit her world. Although readers will need to suspend their realism for some of the more unlikely coincidences, this in no way takes from the book. And the fact that so many characters in the book are themselves authors, one gets great insight into John Irving's own probably journey with this and his other books. I would highly recommend this novel, a must for John Irving fans and a good start for a first time reader.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of his best 8 Nov 2005
Forget about magical realism; forget about the exploration of grief and loss, and the complexity of human relationships. This book has an awful lot of sex. No, make that: a lot of awful sex. Still, maybe that's what people like, and maybe that's why so many are prepared to forgive Irving for falling so far below his usual high standard. I think that one reason I found this book disappointing was the the main character was not at all engaging; I didn't really care what happened to Ruth Cole, except in the first part when she was a four year old girl. In fact the first part of the book is by far the best, conjuring up real atmosphere, drama, and at times farce. I was gripped. But then we move on to Ruth's adult life and away from Long Island, and the story starts to fall flat. One thing that annoyed me somewhat was that all of the characters are writers (a bit of navel gazing on Irving's part?), and passages of their writings are embedded here and there in the story. This works well in 'Garp', but not in this book. This book is no 'Garp' and the writers in it are not of Garp's stature. Still, the book gets three stars from me. After all, it is by John Irving. Irving stands head and shoulders above most other novelists, so a mediocre book by his standards is still a good one compared with most other novels. Perhaps I was just expecting too much. Anyway, if you like Irving, you'll probably find this book to be OK. But if you're not into Irving yet, don't start with this one. 'The World according to Garp' or 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' will give you a much more favourable first impression.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is the second novel by John Irvin I have read, after the World According to Garp. I found the novel engaging from the beginning. I loved the way he presented the characters, those fantastic characters of the children's story writer, his fascinating wife, and even secondary characters like Mr. Minty. I found the first part flawless, both funny and moving. In my opinion, the novel starts to lose its strength the moment Ruth becomes the main character. Although her diary is very interesting as we are able to observe the process of the creation of a novel from the initial idea that inspires it, I find that Ruth is not a strong enough character to pull the weight of the story, she is not as well defined as other characters, she is very judgemental and I found that I did not manage to empathise with her. The story picks up in the last part, however, it does seem a bit unbelievable...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A prayer for...........something better 12 Oct 2000
If you have never read anything by John Irving before, what have you been doing with your literary life?........do it NOW. However, don't start with "A Widow for One Year".
Saying that, John Irving still creates both complex and sometimes disturbing characters, more so because he enables us to see these parts in ourselves.
He describes fluidly the fear, embarressment yet natural sexuality of a teenage boy who is seduced by the grown woman he lusts after.
He also charmingly describes the obssession a child may have over an item which an adult might take for granted in the way the very young Ruth Cole has over photographs of her brothers.
If you are considering reading your first book by John Irving then try "A prayer for Owen Meany first" because that book can make you laugh out loud one moment and cry on the turn of a page, it is a work of genius.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promises much, delivers little 30 Oct 2002
I am at a loss as to why the second part of this book is such a disappointment, for this was exact point at which this book lost me. Told in three parts, the first part is fantastically well written - the characters are well-imagined and depicted such that you feel as if you actually know them. The sections on the upbringing of little Ruth Cole, her wayward father and the role of Eddie are simply superb - I'd love to gush on about why and how, but I don't want to give anything away. There have not been many books that I have sat and read and read and read until I've devoured some 200 pages in one sitting, but this first section is priceless. I had hoped that this would herald a return to form for John Irving after some fairly lean times.
Sadly, this is not the case. Once we are (arbitrarily) flung some forty years into the future, the remainder of the book is self-conscious navel-gazing, focusing on the trials and tribulations of being a successful niche market author. Oh John! Please! This isn't 'magic realism', it's a silly exercise in exorcising your demons, and this narcissism drags the book down with it. Part three is a little better, picking the pace up again, but the long and meandering second section took all the momentum and impetus out of the book and renders later events almost irrelevant. If you are looking for an introduction to John Irving, look elsewhere - ardent fans may lap it up, but it is certainly not his finest hour.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
A great story from a great writer. Highly recommended. Will written and compelling. Altogether a great read story and read. One of his best.
Published 2 months ago by Tony Fitz
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Have never read anything by John Irving before but gave this one a go as it was recommended on Stephen King's reading list in his book 'On Writing - a memoir of the craft. Read more
Published 3 months ago by lynsey turner
2.0 out of 5 stars Taedium ad nauseam
I was passed a paperback copy of this book to read by a friend and asked, "Let me know what you think of it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mrs. F. H. Mortimer
2.0 out of 5 stars Widow for one year
not my type of book but I will try again I just cant get into it. All books deserve a second chance so when I run out of other books I will give it another try
Published 6 months ago by Cath Rainey
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
I had never read a John Irving novel until the one who is always right, Mrs B, handed me a copy of The World According To Garp. Read more
Published 21 months ago by D Brown
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious in the extreme
I thoroughly enjoyed "A Prayer For Owen Meany" so was happy to begin a new John Irving - but let me save you some hours of your life you won't get back - it's not worth it. Read more
Published on 4 Nov 2011 by byron
4.0 out of 5 stars much to enjoy
In the first part of the book, at 16 year old student visits a children's writer and his wife for a summer job and becomes engaged in their lives; in the second part a successful... Read more
Published on 3 April 2011 by William Jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Widow for One Year by John Irving
John Irving does it again! He really has to be one of my favourite authors. A Widow for One year is again an excellent story of a dysfunctional family, but he takes each character... Read more
Published on 26 Nov 2010 by P. A. Cunningham
4.0 out of 5 stars John Iriving and his feminine side
t took a while to get through this one! But I didn't want to give up. It's like that with John Iriving, he is, unfortunately, long winded. Read more
Published on 6 Nov 2010 by Ger
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Irving - unconventional but brilliant
When John Irving is on form, he writes as good a book as you can hope to read. Whilst nothing of his will, in my opinion, match the brilliance of his 'Prayer for Owen Meany', 'A... Read more
Published on 16 May 2010 by BookWorm
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