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...you might like this bizarre tale of family, community, hierarchy, missionaries, twins separated at birth, and transexual serial murder in India. Unlike Q+A's Vikras Swarup, Irving isn't Indian, but he avoids cultural appropriation (I think--I'm not Indian) by stating upfront in the intro that he doesn't know India well, thanking a host of South East Asian artists for their help, and creating an ex-pat main character who is alientated from his birth country but not assimilated into the West.
I found the novel humourous and tremendously entertaining, but it's not for everyone: Know that there are multiple quirkly characters weaving through several intersecting storylines highly dependent upon coincidence, like a modern day tale from Trollope or Dickens with a twist of PG Wodehouse's mania, all held together by excellent narration.
Irving asks, in a postcolonial global village, "where are you from?" rather than the usual, "who are you?", and the only viable attitude he offers to complexities of human nature is that of a child's wonderment at a circus, despite the probability that the acts are based on cruelty to participants. The opposite of such wonder is fundamentalism. Many characters are shackled by fate, but a few escape predictable ends through human imagination or altruism.
Irving presents an unflattering but loving portrait of Bombay/Mumbai in the late 80s, before the terrorist bombings of 1993 and economic boom of 2000s. I'm not sure how an inhabitant would respond to the outsider's view. Also I'm not sure how a transexual might react to some of the characters. Some also might be put off by the novel's use of "cripple"/"crippled" to describe what we refer to now as disability, but all the charaters are "crippled," if not physically than emotionally or socially.
30 of 30 people found this review helpful
The first 4-5 hours are difficult to endure. Lots of character introductions and scene setting. But if you can hang through this, you will find this a charming, quirky, funny novel.
The main charcter is loveable and quite endearing. I felt I was in India along with Dar and the Duckworthians. The author gave me such a feel for the characters. He made me care about their antics in this mysterious country. Now I want to visit India and see the Royal Circus.
19 of 19 people found this review helpful
This was the second John Irving audiobook I have listened to - the other being A Prayer for Owen Meany. It's taken me a while to get round to it as I was slightly put off by the length; although I enjoyed Owen Meany, it did lack the narrative momentum that makes a really good audiobook, and I was a little concerned that Son of the Circus might be the same, and this might make it a demanding and long listen.
But I was very pleasantly surprised. The plot is certainly an original one, very interesting and inventive, and the book never flags. The cast is quite a big one, but the author paints them all with a sure and vivid touch, and yoou want to know what is going to happen to them. Narration by David Colacci is excellent and he really makes the book such a pleasure to listen to.
All in all, a very enjoyable book and strongly recommended.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
Not as painful a story as Garp and not as unsettling as Owen Meany (even though it involves a serial killer); this is a great yarn. It is a page-turner, if an audio-book can be called such a thing and the characters and setting have a believable richness. The narration is excellent (accents/voices passable and not too distracting). I came to like the readers voice so much I have recently downloaded another book written by him.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful