Generally speaking, I love Irving’s multi-plot storytelling and larger than life dysfunctional characters. But this one grew stories within stories and wandered along so many tangents that I kept looking at the page number and calculating how many more pages to go? Thank goodness for the interspersed eroticism that offset the bogged down pace.
A little too dark and morbid for me with many sub stories that were barely connected to the main. I ended up skipping through half of it. I wouldn't recomend this book.
John Irving has the uncanny gift of depicting characters in their fullness. Capturing the subtleties of what motivates behaviour, he presents poignant glimpses of how his characters overcome or succumb to their flaws and weaknesses. Set in the 1950's and spanning to present day his descriptions of the leisured life in the Hamptons brings to life my own memories of summering on Lake Simcoe and in Georgian Bay. One can almost smell the Ban de-Soleil and feel the heat of the sun. An unusual story, a compelling read, I did not necessarily like the characters but Irving's writing is too exceptional to pass up. He makes you want to read more of his works!
I suppose it would be that one won’t love all the books one reads in a year. This was my first “bust” of 2014. The book is in three portions, following three segments of our protagonist Ruth’s life. First, when she is four and her mother begins an affair with her husband’s assistant who is 16 years old, Second, when she is mid 30s and contemplating marriage, and Third, when she has been widowed about five years after the wedding. The first segment is the strongest of the three. While I found the affair totally gross it’s the best written. But I found adult Ruth to be an incomplete person–there were times where I felt her actions or reactions were completely implausible, and I got really sick and tired of the running commentary on her physical appearance. I hate to say it, but the whole thing seemed like a man trying to write a woman and just not getting it. I can’t say I would recommend this one.
Started out good, but I did not care for the ending, and the middle part seemed not to go with the rest of the book. Not one of my favorites.
Irving's 9th novel. He may be a perpetual best-selling author and an Oscar winner to boot (for adapting his own "Cider House Rules"), but I think Irving is a little underrated, at least by the critical establishment who seem to consider him more a craftsman than artist. And he is, but he's better at putting together a novel and creating memorable characters than many of his peers and younger critics' darlings (Franzen comes to mind). If you've read a few of his books, there is plenty here that is familiar and while the plot veers close towards implausible (prostitutes, murder, death, etc.), it's a warm, moving and big-hearted book.
Great style, as usual; and an entertaining story.
I enjoyed the story. There seemed to be mini stories within the story about characters in the book. All very entertaining, but sometimes it seemed like irrelevant excess detail. I did laugh out loud a number of times.
I couldn't get past the fact that this book seemed reminiscent of the 1970s and Irving's success with The World According to Garp. Its humour seemed old-fashioned, and I didn't care for it. (Jan 2001)
An original story about devastating loss and the different ways people cope with the aftermath.
John Irving works his magic as he churns out this tale of heart wrenching struggle intricately woven with humour as only he can. As with all his novels, this is not a suspense –filled page turner but an unfolding drama that draws you in bit by bit, deeper and deeper. Not everyone will like this genre, but for those who do, it is quite a treat.
The first part of this novel was made into a film called “the Door In the Floor” starring Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger. The film is true to the novel.
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