Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars India well observed, 13 May 2012
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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!
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