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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Setting Free the Bears

Setting Free the Bears by John Irving

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

November 15, 2002

If this were written later in Irving's career I'd rate it lower, but it's his first book, so you got to cut him some slack. The so-called plot of the story involves letting animals out of the zoo in Vienna, a harebrained scheme if there ever was one. The zoo bust is a bust, and I couldn't decide if I should laugh or just be sickened by the results.

Almost half the book is given to Siggy's "autobiography" detailing the lives of his parents and how he came to be during the years leading up to and after WWII. Siggy is a little disillusioned about his generation not having a war to fight, so "rescuing" the zoo animals is similar to the antics of his father and his mother's first boyfriend, Zahn (who may or may not have tried to set free the zoo animals at the end of the war). Siggy's results (through Graff) are similar. The problem with the autobiography and zoo watches is that you spend so much time slogging through them that you get taken out of the rest of the story. Which could be a good thing, because none of the characters come off to be all that sympathetic (which I say for every Irving book I've read to date) and I never did understand why Gallen stayed with Graff as long as she did.

A somewhat enjoyable read, but I think it's best function is to compare Irving's earliest work with his later ones. I think he improved in coming up with better stories, but I've always had a hard time liking any of his characters. If you do purchase this book and have read his later works, just try to keep in mind that this is the first so you won't judge it too unfairly.

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