Narrative makes the world go round.
...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.
I'm an Irving fan, and haven't enjoyed his work this much since Garp. Unlikely characters in strange circumstances, and it all works wonderfully. I laughed out loud, very unusual for me, and was hooked on characters I initially thought would be hard to like. Excellent narration, long book but worth 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.
This book was very well read by David Colacci and started out well but the plot seemed to ramble all over the place. Overall, quite enjoyable but too long.
Listening to this book was like riding a merry-go-round. You never know where it was going to drop you off next!
At first I was a little confused, dizzy perhaps, but once I figured it out, I really did enjoy the ride.
This book has it all...murder, romance, sex, scandal all told a little tounge in cheek. It is at times laugh out loud funny. Though I must admit that the ending did drag out. I thought it was over at the end of Part 3 only to find out I had another 4 hours to go.
I am always amazed at Irving's heights of imagination. And, A Son of the Circus does not disappoint. Hearing in the prologue that our author has never been to India, I was somewhat worried. But never fear, the world he paints while steeped in Mombai cultural references, is strictly his own and is without parallel in the real planet. And, that is what brings me back to him: improbable personalities living in impossible situations yet all is familiar and understandable. Don't know how he does it, but I certainly know how to enjoy a good read.
Each character is complete. The twists and turns of the "plot" with flashbacks and forwards is dizzying. A veritable 3-ring circus squared! And, so much fun.
Download this novel and get ready to lose yourself.
When I first began reading this book, I noticed something very odd: all things happened in threes. For example, if the author describes something using an odd turn of phrase, you will see it used in three different ways very soon. The book itself is in three parts though you might be pressed to see a dividing line since, like the circus he is immitating, the action of one ring draws your attention as you are still aware of the others. In form, this book is a masterpiece matched by only a few. As for story, I was somewhat disappointed as nothing much seems to happen (even though there is a great deal of build up). But, as with all of John Irving's work, it is about the view along the road, your fellow travelers, and your remembrances along the way and not an elaborate chase scene ending in a massive explosion...
I liked this book a lot but by hour 15 you'll wonder if this will ever end. Just go with the long diversions and back stories, the language and the great reader. You'll be through it in no time!
John Irving it seems will alway pick on women, almost women, and children. You will not be disappointed. Again, he is the master of finding something funny in human suffering. His description is so rich you can almost smell the the surroundings.
Listening to A Son of the Circus is like going for a very long, meandering walk with a crazy uncle. Lots of stories of the past, woven only slightly together, driven by insane coincidences, following spur of the moment tangents to other distant places -- and yet, when the crazy uncle is John Irving, with his unmistakeable warmth and humor at full force, it's a walk worth taking.
This is a novel I've failed to read all the way through for eighteen years (I'm ashamed to admit this) and I'm a devoted Irving fan. It takes perseverance. But listening to it did help me connect the characters (and keep them all straight) for the first time. Definitely better listened to in audio format than read.
For Irving fans (and I think you have to be or I don't think you'll make it through this one): Recommend.