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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling!
"The Fourth Hand" is quintessential Irving with its exploration of longing and loss, its exuberant cast of eccentrics and obsessives, its extraordinary, convoluted plot and its chilling reminders of the sudden lethal violence of twentieth century America. Unlike many of his other books, it is not about a writer, but about a television journalist for a twenty...
Published on 27 Jun 2001 by mackaignan@aol.com

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The door to Irving's universe
As a fan, I was really looking forward to Mr. Irving's new novel. What would it be this time, after brilliant stories like A son of the Circus or The Cider House Rules screenplay? The Fourth Hand did not disappoint me in the end, but then again...
All the Irving ingredients are there: the unique subversive mix of the absurd and the real, crazy but real-life...
Published on 18 July 2001


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The door to Irving's universe, 18 July 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Hardcover)
As a fan, I was really looking forward to Mr. Irving's new novel. What would it be this time, after brilliant stories like A son of the Circus or The Cider House Rules screenplay? The Fourth Hand did not disappoint me in the end, but then again...
All the Irving ingredients are there: the unique subversive mix of the absurd and the real, crazy but real-life characters, hilarious situations, sexual and moral dilemma's, social 'criticism' (mass media),...
But to me, it lacked engagement, a necessity to tell thís particular story, which made other books like "A Prayer for Owen Meany" or " A Widow for one year" so compelling. Especially the form of The Fourth Hand bothered me. It is great that Mr. Irving tried to write a shorter book, that he keeps on searching for new ways to write at this stage of his career. But to compensate that, he is too present as a writer in the book, often commenting on the story, often describing, summarizing situations that could have been great scenes.
And somewhere in the middle there is a serious dip. I almost lost interest there. Why elaborate on Dr. Zajac when he drops out in the middle of the book? At that point, the writer is so busy with all his characters, that the story lacks direction. But as soon as he focuses on Patrick and Doris again - the main characters - the love story that has always been there emerges, its simple and honest beauty leaving you breathless at the end.
The Fourth hand is 'just' a beautiful story. Nothing more, nothing less. I would recommend it to someone who has not read Irving yet. Just to show them the door to Irving's universe and, in a gentle way, making them want to see more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, not up to his usual standard, 17 Sep 2005
This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Paperback)
I'm not sure what happened here but this is certainly not Irving in his usual flying form. Although the idea behind this book has all the hallmarks of John Irving - a bit wacky with potentially hilarious plot turns - it fails to deliver. I found the novel laboured, the characters unbelievable and even the names of the characters (which Irving usually does so brilliantly) somehow very fake-sounding. It certainly does have comic moments, more to do with the character of the hand surgeon than the main character of Wallingford, and specifically the dog hell-bent on eating its own excrement.
Overall though, this book is hard to finish. I found myself not exactly disliking Wallingford, just not believing in him or caring what happened. For those of you not familiar with Irving's work, earlier novels are a sure bet (Cider House Rules, Owen Meany, Garp) but more recent ones are also good (Widow for One Year, Son of the Circus).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling!, 27 Jun 2001
This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Hardcover)
"The Fourth Hand" is quintessential Irving with its exploration of longing and loss, its exuberant cast of eccentrics and obsessives, its extraordinary, convoluted plot and its chilling reminders of the sudden lethal violence of twentieth century America. Unlike many of his other books, it is not about a writer, but about a television journalist for a twenty four hour news channel. Patrick Wallingford loses his hand to a lion while reporting a trapeze accident at the Indian circus which figured in "A Son of the Circus", and the book follows his subsequent career, the history of his failed transplant, his growing love for the widow of the donor of his temporary new hand, and his resulting spiritual transformation. This sounds very solemn, but as ever Irving seamlessly mixes the serious, the moving and the outrageously comic, at times even the farcical, and the novel is effortlessly and compellingly readable. The author's recent involvement with film making, however, (which led to an Oscar for "The Cider House Rules" screenplay) and the linguistically superficial nature of Wallingford's own employment are consciously reflected in the style, which is much sparer and terser than in Irving's previous novels, the paragraphs shorter, and the whole book only reaching 300 pages, which for Irving is very short. The implied critique of the morality, integrity and intentions of "disaster" newscasting is devastating. "The Fourth Hand", unlike "Garp" or "A Widow For One Year", does not achieve the cathartic total immersion of the reader. It is not Irving's finest novel, but it is a good deal better than practically anything else around at the moment. Read it!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply satisfying as usual, 17 Feb 2002
By 
A Common Reader "Committed to reading" (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Hardcover)
The Fourth Hand is classic Irving. A mildly bizarre story line, highly humorous, and deeply insightful.
Patrick Wallingford comes alive on the page as a man like the rest of us, bemused by the things that happen to him, but somehow finding his way through complex relationships and startling life events. He is likeable but also flawed in many ways, and yet someone who evokes our sympathy.
The Fourth Hand is a funny book, so much so that from time to time and found myself laughing aloud, attracting the attention of others in the room. It is also sexy, and yet, the eroticism is combined with a human understanding of the characters so that it is never tacky.
I don't know what it is about Irving, but while his books can be read on a fairly superficial level, there is something in them which touches deep chords and says something about our own lives too. I highly recommend The Fourth Hand and am sure it won't disappoint any Irving fans out there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Be warned : This does not do Irving justice, 3 Jun 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Paperback)
I only recently discovered John Irving when I read 'The Cider House Rules' and my favourite 'The World According to Garp'. Following these two brilliant novels I assumed this would be another classic, however I found it more than disappointing. The characters are underdeveloped and weak but more importantly I found the main character unbearable. To those who have not read John Irving's work, be warned, do not start with this, it betrays all his other wonderful books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A one handed journalist who's irresistable to women. Mmh?, 24 July 2002
This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Paperback)
As usual with Irving The Fourth Hand moves at the usual steady pace with the inevitable plot surprises and the usual impeccable, clear and concise English. Not as deep and involving as some of his classic novels (Owen Meaney, Cider House Rules, Garp and Son of the Circus which probably run to twice the size of this) but then again this novel has quite a small cast of characters.
For a British reader the American football paragraphs will probably not mean much but that is irrelevant really.
My only reservation is Patrick Wallingford himself (the main character) - every woman he comes across seems to be willing to disrobe and jump into bed with him within a matter of hours (even the most unlikely ones) - or am I just jealous? I don't think so - at least two of his conquests I couldn't see myself getting it up for. Mind you I think 'conquests' is the wrong word because it's mainly a case of the women conquering him...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An easier read, but typical Irving., 8 July 2001
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Hardcover)
For a John Irving novel, this book is an 'easy read' and more lightweight than previous novels. It has traditional Irving trademarks - eccentricity, twists in the plot, coincidences (for example, the 'left hand' fertility symbol), loss and grief. There are some recurring themes, e.g. a Father's love for his son, but it is still refreshingly original - with the loss, gain and loss of a 'hand' being the central story. Patrick Wallingford isn't immediately likeable, but this is his story, and you grow to like him more throughout the book, and begin to hope that he finds his way, developing into more than the somewhat shallow, good-looking 'lion guy'. This novel will not give you the same gut-wrenching feeling as Owen Meany or Garp, but it is so, so much better than other books around. Well worth reading more than once.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Fourth Hand, 3 Mar 2006
This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Paperback)
As an avid reader of John Irving, and usually finding much to think about in the variety and poignancy of relationships in his books, I found this one dissappointing. If you are a fan, of course you will have to read it, but for anyone new to Irving this will not show them the usual brilliance of his work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing storytelling for most of the book, 27 Aug 2004
This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Paperback)
I was curious to read John Irving when I saw Stephen King called him a modern Charles Dickens. This my first book of his, and for much of the first half of the book I found that the amusing storytelling and the all-seeing narrator were enjoyably Dickensian. The trouble is that the amusing plot and characters are too flimsy to stand up to Irving's attempts to become serious at the end. The main character, Patrick Wallingford, is reasonably believable, as I have met several promiscuous high earners in my time in London, and I can believe his attempt to change his ways, but the rest of the characters do not live up to scrutiny. In particular, the main woman is so unbelievably angelic that scenes between her and the main character towards the end are painful to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a bit disappointed, 8 Aug 2003
By 
Thijs (The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Fourth Hand (Paperback)
I have to say that I read the dutch version of this book. It was my first book of John Irving and, of course, I had some expectations. The book really started well and I was really engaged in the story. I like his funny style of writing and the descriptions of people. However, sometimes I found the events too ludicrous and unreal. But, after a while I got really interested in the end. He came up with many characters and I expected a nice twist at the end, but it never came.
Maybe I have to read the other books first to get a feeling of his writing skills, but this book was -although it was nicely written- a bit disappointing (especially the predictive end).
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