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A Widow For One Year Paperback – 1 Jun 1999

3.9 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (1 Jun. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055299796X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552997966
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Wickedly knowing, mischievously post-modern and magical realist along the lines of Gunter Grass, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Robertson Davies" (Time Out)

"Gripping, full of horror and humour" (Literary Review)

"A compelling chronicle of love and loss... His most intricate and fully imagined novel" (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Irving's storytelling has never been better" (New York Times)

"His best since Garp" (Time)

Book Description

A masterpiece from one of the great contemporary American writers.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Having not read a John Irving novel since The Cider House Rules, I wasn't sure I could reacquire the taste for his methods of storytelling. By the very first page of A Widow For One Year, however, I was hooked. This book has the usual Irving mixture of tragedy, comedy, romance, and, of course, sex. And yes...I am man enough to admit that by the end of the book I was moved to tears!
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Format: Paperback
I've read and enjoyed a few other John Irving books and this book did not disappoint. If you liked 'The World According To Garp' and 'Hotel New Hampshire' you'll love this book. Told in three distinct sections (much like acts of a play), it presents the life of Ruth Cole centrally, but also the many colourful characters who inhabit her world. Although readers will need to suspend their realism for some of the more unlikely coincidences, this in no way takes from the book. And the fact that so many characters in the book are themselves authors, one gets great insight into John Irving's own probably journey with this and his other books. I would highly recommend this novel, a must for John Irving fans and a good start for a first time reader.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After The Cider House Rules, which I absolutely loved, I had high hopes for my next John Irving. Sadly, this one didn't do it. 'Widow...' seems a very, very autobiographical book, with a preoccupation with writers, their creative process and the relationships with their readers which quickly becomes tiresome. Every single main character is a writer - the father, the child, the mother, and her lover. When they're not writers, we have: a husband who's an editor, another husband who's read more books than anybody else alive (and the books of everybody in the novel), or another father who's a professor of literature. Oh please. And then, there is a rather distasteful, repetitive obsession with breasts which, for me, turned 'Widow..' into a caricature.

And then there are numerous 'books within a book', from children's stories to a novel about murdered prostitutes, all awfully uninteresting stuff which got in the way of the proper novel, so I found myself skipping pages almost from the start. There are some gems hidden in all this mish-mash, some flashes of genius involving a deeply tragic story line, and I liked the part of the book which explored parental grief; that was nuanced and complex, done with sensitivity, and utterly convincing. Everything else, sorry to say, was neither entertaining nor particularly thought-provoking. The writing is OK, beautiful in places but marred by a stupid amount of words in italics - sometimes, 4-5 to the page. It really annoyed the life out of me, this and the far too many exclamation marks. I couldn't believe the amateurish editing.

So my advice is, if you're new to John Irving don't start with this book, it'll probably put you off this writer and it would be a shame, because most of his other books are superb.
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Format: Paperback
Forget about magical realism; forget about the exploration of grief and loss, and the complexity of human relationships. This book has an awful lot of sex. No, make that: a lot of awful sex. Still, maybe that's what people like, and maybe that's why so many are prepared to forgive Irving for falling so far below his usual high standard. I think that one reason I found this book disappointing was the the main character was not at all engaging; I didn't really care what happened to Ruth Cole, except in the first part when she was a four year old girl. In fact the first part of the book is by far the best, conjuring up real atmosphere, drama, and at times farce. I was gripped. But then we move on to Ruth's adult life and away from Long Island, and the story starts to fall flat. One thing that annoyed me somewhat was that all of the characters are writers (a bit of navel gazing on Irving's part?), and passages of their writings are embedded here and there in the story. This works well in 'Garp', but not in this book. This book is no 'Garp' and the writers in it are not of Garp's stature. Still, the book gets three stars from me. After all, it is by John Irving. Irving stands head and shoulders above most other novelists, so a mediocre book by his standards is still a good one compared with most other novels. Perhaps I was just expecting too much. Anyway, if you like Irving, you'll probably find this book to be OK. But if you're not into Irving yet, don't start with this one. 'The World according to Garp' or 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' will give you a much more favourable first impression.
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Format: Paperback
I am at a loss as to why the second part of this book is such a disappointment, for this was exact point at which this book lost me. Told in three parts, the first part is fantastically well written - the characters are well-imagined and depicted such that you feel as if you actually know them. The sections on the upbringing of little Ruth Cole, her wayward father and the role of Eddie are simply superb - I'd love to gush on about why and how, but I don't want to give anything away. There have not been many books that I have sat and read and read and read until I've devoured some 200 pages in one sitting, but this first section is priceless. I had hoped that this would herald a return to form for John Irving after some fairly lean times.
Sadly, this is not the case. Once we are (arbitrarily) flung some forty years into the future, the remainder of the book is self-conscious navel-gazing, focusing on the trials and tribulations of being a successful niche market author. Oh John! Please! This isn't 'magic realism', it's a silly exercise in exorcising your demons, and this narcissism drags the book down with it. Part three is a little better, picking the pace up again, but the long and meandering second section took all the momentum and impetus out of the book and renders later events almost irrelevant. If you are looking for an introduction to John Irving, look elsewhere - ardent fans may lap it up, but it is certainly not his finest hour.
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