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Thursday, December 7, 2006

A Son of the Circus

A Son of the Circus by John Irving
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
February 22, 2003

When I bought "Son of the Circus" I thought maybe it would be a hard read for me because the book takes place mostly in India and the main character is Indian. However, what I soon learned is that while Farrokh Daruwalla grew up in India, he is not really an Indian. That is, in fact, the point of the books and is drilled home many times by Daruwalla's father's expression of "an immigrant is an immigrant all his life."

I enjoyed this book more than some of Irving's others like "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and "The Fourth Hand", although it is still not as good as "The World According to Garp" or "The Cider House Rules". The story mercifully is not as jumbled up and all the main characters have interesting quirks so they aren't nonentities like "Owen Meany". There is more humor present than other Irving novels, although I wonder if the entire purpose of Jesuit missionary Martin Mills was to provide a comic foil for Dr. Daruwalla.

Anyway, having never been to India I can't say how accurate the setting is, but the India Irving portrays seemed real enough to me. The story has a zany mix of serial killings, circus performers, and even twins separated at birth. Everything comes together during Dr. Daruwalla's "last" visit to India with a few lengthy flashbacks to about 20 years earlier. While the book is long, the story remains interesting enough so that it does not drag along.

I would have to say that Dr. Daruwalla is one of the most sympathetic lead characters in an Irving novel. Daruwalla has devoted his life to helping crippled children and on the side dabbles in genetics to identify the gene for dwarfism, so it was easy to see him as a "good guy" more so than some of Irving's other characters. I could also understand Dr. Daruwalla's problem of being a man without a country and that made me feel even more for him as the story went on.

Of the seven Irving novels I've read, I'd place this as the third best I've read. I highly recommend it, even though the length of it may be intimidating to some readers. It is well worth it, believe me.

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