A Son of the Circus

  • by John Irving
  • Narrated by David Colacci
  • 26 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Born a Parsi in Bombay, sent to university and medical school in Vienna, Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla is a 59-year-old orthopedic surgeon and a Canadian citizen who lives in Toronto. Periodically, the doctor returns to Bombay, where most of his patients are crippled children.Once, 20 years ago, Dr. Daruwalla was the examining physician of two murder victims in Goa. Now, 20 years later, he will be reacquainted with the murderer.


What the Critics Say

"Ringmaster Irving introduces act after act, until three (or more) rings are awhirl at a lunatic pace....His Bombay and his Indian characters are vibrant and convincing." (The Wall Street Journal)
"Irving's nimble humor springs from compassionate insights into cultural and sexual confusion and alienation, baffling questions of faith and purpose, and the kind of hope that thrives in even the most jaded atmosphere." (Booklist)
"His most daring and most vibrant novel.... The story of circus-as-India is told with gusto and delightful irreverence." (The Washington Post Book World)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

If you liked "Q+A"...

...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.
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- connie "Narrative makes the world go round."

Stick With It

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.
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- Floyd

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-25-2008
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio