Customer Reviews


24 Reviews
5 star:
 (14)
4 star:
 (8)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars India well observed
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...
Published on 13 May 2012 by ADAM

versus
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing, though well informed about Bombay/ India
As an Indian living in Bombay, and a fan of Irving since I was sixteen, I was pleased to see that, except for one or two bloopers, Irving's India facts are mostly right. (For that time and given his caste, MrIrving, Farokh's secretary would never have had as modern a name as that. And the basic premise of a character like Inspector Dhar succeeding .... rather...
Published on 12 April 2000


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars India well observed, 13 May 2012
By 
ADAM (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Son Of The Circus (Paperback)
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!

I will not attempt to summarise the complicated plot, which is at least as complex as, and often even more 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 risqué film scripts for Bollywood films. His protegé, Inspector Dhar, is the hero of these films. Martin Mills, mentioned above, is Dhar‚(tm)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 more, then get started on "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!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Acrobatic, 11 Nov. 2011
This review is from: A Son Of The Circus (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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
This review is from: A Son Of The Circus (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly entertaining..you live in Bombay for a while, 3 Jun. 1997
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars One of Irving's best novels, 29 Nov. 2014
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This is one of the best John Irving novels I've read, and I'm a fan of John Irving's books in general. Unlike some of his novels, which are almost obsessed with sex, it doesn't let endless ramblings about body parts get in the way of a good plot. The story is set in India, where a Canadian orthopaedic surgeon has returned to his birthplace of Mumbai, and becomes involved in the hunt for a serial killer. As the protagonist notes himself in the epilogue, his story is 'strange' - but also it's original and interesting, and it works.

Irving creates an authentic seeming Indian backdrop to the story, and his quirky, sometimes hard-to-credit plots work well against the backdrop of the exotic and sometimes chaotic city. The serial-killer story gives a good 'hook' to hang the rest of the events around, which include several diverse subplots. Sometimes Irving's books can feel like they lack sufficient narrative drive for their length, but the good old fashioned mystery in this one avoids that problem.

There are a number of very interesting and likeable characters, in particular the novel's hero, Dr Daruwalla. The different strands of plot come together well, but at the same time Irving doesn't make the mistake of overcombining them. It's a very readable story and quite hard to put down despite its great length. All three of the main plot strands will leave you guessing and wanting to know more. Like any Irving novel, there is plenty of humour to be found, often based around the absurd, but mixed with a lot of pathos. Irving is unafraid to kill characters off or show bad things happening. There is nothing rose-tinted about the world he describes, and yet it is not a gloom-fest either. Getting the balance right between those two things in order to present something like the real world is a skill that not all writers can manage.

Overall, I thought this was a great book and a definite must-read for fans of John Irving. It is extremely long and perhaps could have been a bit shorter, but that's mostly my personal preference for shorter books. If you are new to John Irving, this would be a good place to start. It's a fine piece of literary fiction, interesting and complex enough to amuse most readers.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Irving's Masterpiece, 14 April 2003
This review is from: A Son Of The Circus (Paperback)
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!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chaos theory, 14 July 2002
By 
Erin O'Brien (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Son Of The Circus (Paperback)
John Irving's leitmotifs make for a curious collection. Wrestling; veneral disease; bombs; car and other freak accidents. Vienna; bears; sex-change operations; dwarves. Prostitutes; New England; precarious marriages and necessary infidelities.
When a critical mass of these Irving fetishes appears within a few pages, one can nearly hear the slow-motion crack of a bat nailing a baseball way, way out into the stands.
One of the most interesting features of his work is the convoluted logic which allows each of these themes to be worked into his lunatic subplots. Irving has the wonderful sadism of the best story-tellers, dragging out a chain of events over pages and pages.
"A Son of the circus" is the first Irving novel to make use of the wider world (i.e. not Vienna or New England). Irving sets down the massive machinery of his unsummarizable plots in India. India is a fitting world for him, with all its hugeness, sectarian chaos and multi-everything diversity.
Tom Wolfe has sharply criticized Irving for returning with a mere topography of India, and not a journalistic dissertation. This criticism, while not entirely unfair, is surely irrelevant to Irving's purposes. He has no pretence about being another Joseph Conrad or Ryszard Kapuscinski. Why compete with Salman Rushdie as India's novelist when Irving can bring his own mad vision to an unfamiliar nation?
"A son of the circus" involves a large number of typically bizarre components. An exhibitionist aristocrat named Lady Duckworth after whom Bombay's most prestigous social club is named. A Bombay-born, North Americanized orthopedist who adopts a beautiful boy for whom he writes movies scripts. A serial killing man-turned-woman who draw winking elephants on the stomachs of her victims. In such company, drug-smuggling hippies and a circus full of dwarves are nearly banal.
The chapter headings (such as "The Doctor Dwells on Lady Duckworth's Breasts", or "A Misunderstanding at the Urinal") are surely among the most wonderfully berserk in modern literature.
Irving's character studies are a masterful blend of punning names, verbal tics, and physical features rendered as Homeric epithets. According to the whims of his plots, Irving can suddenly inject a previously flat character with detailed history and motivation.
The concentration on form required of a novel which swalls the structure of a murder mystery whole results in a certain diminishment of emotional energy. While this cast of characters can make you laugh hysterically, unusually for Irving, it can't make you cry. Peerless in his mastery of the comedic epic, second-rate Irving is still first-rate American literature.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Took time to get into, 13 Mar. 2014
By 
Josephine Canty (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This took me a time to get into but once I was engaged I could not put it down. A memorable book
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Son of the Circus by John Irving, 27 Nov. 2013
This review is from: A Son Of The Circus (Paperback)
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! It doesn't come much stranger than that. Dr Daruwalla doesn't feel at home anywhere, so feels out of water wherever he goes. He goes back to India every year to his apartment, goes to his old club The Duckworth club for a taste of old India, but this year there is a murder, which harks back to one that took place over 20 years ago. Dr Daruwalla's journey towards finding the culprit, takes us through some very strange neighbourhood's indeed, and we meet some less than wholesome characters, but the book is somehow captivating and you just have to keep on to the end. Another very good read, with a quirky plot. Great I really liked it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars A Son of the Circus, 13 Sept. 2013
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Son of the Circus (Paperback)
If you already know John Iving, you'll know what to expect.
If you don't, WHY NOT?
It's a great introduction to his writing, and hefty enough to keep you going for a good while.
If you are still alive, you won't be disappointed with this book!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

A Son Of The Circus
A Son Of The Circus by John Irving (Paperback - 1 Sept. 1995)
£7.19
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews