Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now
Customer Review

55 of 59 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 
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]

Comments

Track comments by e-mail

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Dec 2012 16:44:33 GMT
Kim says:
If I needed persuading to buy John Irvings latest book, which incidently I dont, this review would certainly have had me clicking on the "buy now" button. Ripple has written an informative, sensitive and extremely useful review without in any sense, giving the game away. I totally agree that the eighties saw Irvings finest work, A Prayer For Owen Meaney remains my favourite, not just of Irvings but pretty much of any author. I look forward to receiving, and reading, In One Person.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Jun 2013 08:27:04 BDT
A boring "novel" badly written. A real waste of time. I still don't know how I managed to read it to the end.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details