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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive story of sexual identity that sees Irving back to his best form
"In One Person" is a sensitive story of sexual identity, narrated by a bisexual writer who is now in his later years, recalling not only his own coming to terms with his sexuality and attraction to men, women and transgenders while at school in a New England school, but also his later years and the devastating impact of the AIDS virus in 1980s America. At times the...
Published on 9 May 2012 by Ripple

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very involved, not very involving
In Irving's previous novels, we encounter multi-dimensional, multi-faceted characters that engage, touch and move us. Sometimes, the background contains recurring themes (rape, violence against women, abortion) against which their lives unfold. But the story, the lives and interactions of the characters are always primary, and the message inevitably and inexorably emerges...
Published on 30 July 2012 by M. Schmid


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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive story of sexual identity that sees Irving back to his best form, 9 May 2012
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In One Person (Hardcover)
"In One Person" is a sensitive story of sexual identity, narrated by a bisexual writer who is now in his later years, recalling not only his own coming to terms with his sexuality and attraction to men, women and transgenders while at school in a New England school, but also his later years and the devastating impact of the AIDS virus in 1980s America. At times the content is quite graphic, but John Irving captures the outsider's feelings beautifully in this tale of secrecy in a confusing world of identity.

Irving is always at his best when it comes to writing about outsiders and is at his most effective when he writes with passion and anger at the treatment of those individuals. It's somewhat ironic that the late 1970s and 1980s have such a devastating impact on the theatrical characters in this story as this was the decade that saw Irving's own output reach such a consistently high standard with books such as "The World According to Garp", "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and "The Cider House Rules". Since that period his output has been more patchy, but this marks a return to something like his very best form. As partly with "Garp" its focus is on people's attitudes to sexual differences.

There are plenty of Irving standards in the book. There's the New England setting, the college life, the wrestling team, Vienna, absent parents, writers, sexual variations and the main character even has a speech impediment, albeit not quite so distinctive as Owen Meany's. As one character rails to the writer-narrator at one point: "You create all these characters who are so sexually `different' as you might call them ... and then you expect us to sympathize with them, or feel sorry for them, or something". That sums up Irving's own work pretty well and when he's on form, as here, he does it quite excellently.

The narrator, Billy, certainly has an unusual upbringing. At first we know little about his absentee father, but his mother's own father is a local lumber mill owner whose penchant is to act as a woman in the local amateur dramatic productions. His aunt is a fearsome woman, who often competes with her father for the women's roles. She in turn is married to the alcoholic, local boys' college admissions tutor who is renowned for his lax approach to entry into the school and is sympathetic to his father-in-law. At school, Billy has a crush on the star of the school wrestling team but also on the local librarian, the formidable Miss Frost. The arrival of Billy's soon to be step-father to teach and direct Shakespeare at the college provides the first of many literary references to gender swapping and differing types of love.

The cast of characters are certainly rich in their idiosyncracies and preferences. Over half of the book is devoted to Billy's early years, although he does go off a tangents and discusses future relationships at times. While much of this was kept private and often fought against, with the school doctors suggesting these feeling could be "cured" as Billy and his class mates grew up, a more permissive attitude developed. Initially Billy experienced this in Europe on a year abroad (this is Irving - it's almost compulsory for his characters to go to Vienna at some point), but even in the US there was more acceptance until the AIDS outbreak in the 1980s had frightening consequences for many. But what Irving does so well is to evoke sympathy with his main characters, particularly Billy, who often has to deal with these feelings alone. Irving notes that bisexuals in particular suffered from being not trusted by either straight or gay people of either gender. Add in the additional sexual confusion of transgenders, and the whole thing becomes even more messy. But by invoking such sympathy in the main character, it is hard for the reader to judge Billy's choices - although some characters certainly do.

As with all Irving's best works, the subject matter of the stories can sound heavy, but fans will know that his genius is in making these often difficult subjects highly entertaining. While it might be hard to believe that even a particularly lax admissions tutor might attract quite the range of sexual variations that this Vermont college attracts, particularly when the school itself is not particularly liberal, some poetic licence can be allowed when the stories are this entertaining. I have kept hoping that Irving will write another book that is as memorable as his 1980s output in terms of characters and stories. This is that book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very involved, not very involving, 30 July 2012
By 
M. Schmid (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In One Person (Hardcover)
In Irving's previous novels, we encounter multi-dimensional, multi-faceted characters that engage, touch and move us. Sometimes, the background contains recurring themes (rape, violence against women, abortion) against which their lives unfold. But the story, the lives and interactions of the characters are always primary, and the message inevitably and inexorably emerges from these.
This novel, however, is a pamphlet. It feels as though Irving has decided that he has a message to impart - discrimination based on sexual orientation is wrong - and has constructed (and I use the word advisedly) a story around it. No matter how much we may agree with the central message (which I do wholeheartedly), this does not make for a good novel.
For example, in _The Hotel New Hampshire_, Irving reflects on the last sentence of a novel, and how no-one ever managed to even come close to the one of _The Great Gatsby_. I personally think he has sometimes given Fitzgerald a run for his money in this domain, most notably in _Owen Meany_. But here, almost at the end, we read the following: "My dear boy, don't put a _label_ on me - don't make me a _category_ before you get to know me." Does it get any more trite and contrived?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars people are just people, 12 May 2012
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markr - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In One Person (Hardcover)
This is a very enjoyable life story, which features the relationships of Billy Abbott, a writer in his sixties looking back over the important events and people in his life. Billy is bisexual, and that fact has been a major influence on his relations with family, lovers, and friends - many of whom have never found a way to define their understanding of him, or their relationships with him. John Irving writes as beautifully as ever, creating a sympathy for the characters and an empathy with their troubles and dreams. The novel is page turning - you find yourself reading on and on to find out what happens, and to learn the secrets of the past as they are revealed.

The events described cover a period of over 50 years up to the present and as such chart society's growing acceptance of diversity, and a generally improving atmosphere of tolerance, whilst making the destructive effects of bigotry and prejudice clear. Above all this novel is a sympathetic and often moving narration of life outside of mainstream convention, which celebrates people as people - without the need for tags or labels to categorise or to judge them

A very well written, kind, and enjoyable book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A shade disappointing for Irving, 26 Oct. 2012
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Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In One Person (Hardcover)
I always look forward to a new book by John Irving. Reading 'Hotel New Hampshire' in my teens is still such a vivid memory for me, and I have been hooked on his work ever since. It is fair to say that over the years the quality of his work has varied quite widely and some books are way, way better than others, but he is never not interesting.

This latest book is really not one of my favourites. I enjoy his writing about people on the periphery of society. I love that he tackles differences in gender and sexuality so openly and frankly, but this novel seemed rather laboured and he did bang on a bit. The story itself, which could have been magnificent, peopled as it is by his usual cast of freaks and outsiders, who always capture the imagination, seemed drowned by the weight of polemic in what was effectively a four hundred page rant about sexuality. I stuck with it to the end because I love Irving dearly, but unlike some of his other work, this is not one of his books that I will be rereading.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Time to put down the pen, 6 Sept. 2013
This review is from: In One Person (Paperback)
It is with a very heavy heart I write this review.
John Irving has been my favourite Author for thirty years. One of the great Post War American authors. Challenging, funny, pathos all mixed up. Sadly his 21st century books are far out weighed by his 20th century novels.
I have left reading this book because Twisted River was so bad.....I wish I hadn't picked it up.
This book is a mess. No real story line, boring unsympathetic characters, zero humour, a never ending & tedious moralising tone.
I think he has finished the themes of transexuals (genders), wrestling and historical timelines for ever. Its most common storyline is who has died this page.
This one will go in the Charity pile, never to be re-read. I skipped through the last 100 pages as I was so bored.
I will have to re-visit some of his other work to cheer me up and to re-convince me that he is a class author.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One to Forget, 22 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: In One Person (Hardcover)
I'm a huge John Irving fan - I live for his next novel. So imagine my disappointment with this latest offering. I agree with all the other 3-star reviewers;this is one to forget. The Shakespeare references were interesting but, to me, pretty pointless. The characters were so unbelievable. And there seemed very little direction to the story. Why the AIDS history lesson? Nothing seemed to work and nothing within the novel was very interesting. A big let down but as it's Irving it deserves 3 stars - just.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a disappointment, 21 Sept. 2013
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If you liked John Irving in the 80s then don't buy this. Story is far fetched and some details offensive (don't need to know!!!), style is repetitive and shoddy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bear-free, 11 Sept. 2014
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New England - check
Vienna - check
Boarding School - check
Absent parent - check
Wrestling - check
Bears - no, no bears in this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not his best..., 7 May 2013
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This review is from: In One Person (Kindle Edition)
...but still a great read. All the usual John Irving themes collected together. If this is intended as your first John Irving novel...don't start here!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another big disappointment, 4 July 2012
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This review is from: In One Person (Hardcover)
After the return to form of Irving's last novel, this is a sad disappointment. Discursive is JI's middle name, but usually there's a pay-off which makes you want to start over all again. This time, alas, there isn't even the saving redemption of a bravura climax. Billy (the lead character) tells us his story, but seems no more rounded or credible by the end of it, than he did 500 or so pages before. And once again, the editing is sloppy. The same phrases and words crop up far too often (preternaturally)and Irving's famously idiosyncratic syntax is done no favours by the publisher's lazy (or fearful) approach to their star performer. All in all, a very sad letdown, nothwithstanding the typically courageous subject matter.
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In One Person
In One Person by John Irving
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