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The 158-Pound Marriage

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3.19 of 5 stars 3.19  ·  rating details  ·  9,779 ratings  ·  274 reviews
"Irving looks cunningly beyond the eye-catching gyrations of the mating dance to the morning-after implications."
--The Washington Post

The darker vision and sexual ambiguities of this erotic, ironic tale about a ménage a quatre in a New England university town foreshadow those of The World According to Garp; but this very trim and precise novel is a marked departure from
...more
Hardcover, 245 pages
Published August 12th 1974 by Random House (first published 1974)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ryan
Jun 28, 2007 Ryan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody who like john irving's successful books, or thinks wife-swapping is fascinating
relationships really aren't all about the sex. john irving kicked even more ass before he was widely read. read it.
Tory
It's John Irving. One cannot go wrong with John Irving.
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Caveman get lonely. Caveman get wife. Caveman get bored. Caveman wife-swap. Caveman get jealous. Caveman get lonely. Caveman get wife. Caveman get bored. Caveman wife-swap. Caveman get jealous...

(I could go on).
Jamie Sigal
A tale about the trials and tribulations of relationships that are fraught with infidelities, an area of expertise in the writing mind of John Irving, I was expecting a whole lot more from this book than I actually got. As with most Irving novels, there's plenty of Vienna for the reader to sink their teeth into (after all the John Irving I've read over the years I feel almost as intimate with Vienna as I am with my own Toronto, and I've never even been there!), and no bears to mar or confuse thi ...more
Jaslo
I love John Irving. I really, really love him. I was very curious to read this because it is one of his early novels and I was told it was bad and very mean spirited. I think it is still better than most novels and only mildly mean spirited. Irving demonstrates his usual (brilliant) humor, his fascination with physical deformity and physical fitness, and his delightfully complex characters. That being said, I found the transitions from scene to scene vague and quick. Several times in this novel ...more
Sharyl
This is the tale of two couples who decide to share each other, or become a ménage à quatre, in an attempt to even out things in their relationships. It's Edith and Severin in one corner, Utchka and the unnamed, unreliable narrator in the other. The title of the book relates to wrestling, but the fighting image is close enough...anyway, Edith and the narrator have two things in common: they are both trying to be writers and they both met their spouses while traveling in Vienna. Severin and Utchk ...more
Adam
After reading John Irving's A Son Of The Circus a few months ago and enjoying it (see my review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... ), I decided to read another of his books. I chose The 158-Pound Marriagebecause, unlike many of Irving's other works it was a slim volume ideal for carrying whilst commuting.

The narrator is an academic who writes historical novels. His wife, Utch, was born in Austria soon before the Soviet Union marched in at the end of WW2. Severin, also born in Austria, tea
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Glendalee
I can't seem to get sick of Irving. This is one of his shortest novels I've read and that threw me off a bit because I've been reading a lot of Irving lately and all his novels are thick. I picked this book up because I heard that it was similar to the world according to garp (which I loved). This book was about two married couples that enter into a foursome. At first it was a bit unclear how this foursome started and Irving was a bit vague about that but once you get deeper into the story it st ...more
Rebekah
I LOVED The Hotel New Hampshire, The World According to Garp, and A Prayer for Owen Meany, and really liked A Widow for One Year. I read this even though it didn't look that good because I have a three-month-old and no time or attention span for reading anything anymore but John Irving is always pretty quick-moving and this book looked short.

If I didn't already love John Irving I would have hated this book. The characters were pretty unconvincing and if I had been convinced then I wouldn't have
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hcelvis
Partnertausch, um eine Ehekrise zu bewältigen? Was anfangs zu funktionieren scheint, entpuppt sich als fatale Fehleinschätzung: Scheinbar spielt nur einer nicht richtig mit, aber was in den anderen dreien vorgeht, weiß auch keiner genau.
John Irving beschreibt dieses Liebesdrama großartig und menschlich, man kann sich in die Figuren hineinversetzen, man lebt und leidet mit. Auch wenn sein schräger Humor und sein Gespür für skurrile Szenen hier nicht ganz so ausgeprägt zu sein scheinen wie beispie
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Kelly
this is about a foursome, an experiment in switching partners with another couple. taking couple vacations with another couple, dinner and sleepovers house hopping. its difficult for me because i don't like the narrator. he's too goopy. and the children have no presence. but i keep reading. its really intense and relationshippy.

it turns out that i hated the ending too. what happened somewhere along the way was that i stopped trusting the narrators (a historical fiction writer!) perceptions of ho
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Ruth
255 pages. Donated to charity 2010 May.

Professional Reviews

"Irving looks cunningly beyond the eye-catching gyrations of the mating dance to the morning-after implications."
--The Washington Post

The darker vision and sexual ambiguities of this erotic, ironic tale about a ménage a quatre in a New England university town foreshadow those of The World According to Garp; but this very trim and precise novel is a marked departure from the author's generally robust, boisterous style. Though Mr. Irving'
...more
Daniel
"The 158-Pound Marriage" is Irving's third novel, but it bears the seal of his trademark conversational prose, his sleek sparsity. The man is a prose pro -- even at this early point in his career -- capable of turning the simplest of descriptions into something fulsomely beautiful, larger than the sum of its parts.

However, just because someone knows how to write, that doesn't mean they know what they're writing about. In this book, Irving tries real hard to make a very little look like a whole l
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David
When I've talked so much about how much I would prefer Irving if he didn't go on and on and on, you'd think I'd really dig this one. It's the smallest Irving I've ever seen. Yet, it somehow feels more bloated that his much larger novels. The plot doesn't really seem to start for quite a few chapters. So much early on is back story. It's necessary, but I wish he'd have woven it in more like in later books. Though shorter, it's so slow to start and never seems to get much of anywhere once it does ...more
Gossymotto
I really like most of John Irving's books but some of them for me, are just okay. This one is well written as are all of his books, but the story fits in the "just okay" category for my taste anyway. I was expecting the story to go somewhere further than it did and I find it hard to relate to the characters. I kept thinking to myself, "Are these people really that clueless?" And I know there are people like these characters but I found it frustrating to read about them.

I think this one is hugely
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Joell
Irving always packs his stories with quirks and characters that make you squirm. There's always some maiming going on and plenty of oral sex with dire consequences........ There - made you squirm. I've loved him for reasons I can't quite describe - like a guilty pleasure or the train wreck you can't take your eyes off of. True, I absolutely loved A Prayer for Owen Meany - but didn't we all?

And I might add this book to the "loved" category. It's a whopper of a moral tale and you get the pleasure
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Stacy
John Irving is my hands-down favorite author. I have read and re-read this one and while I enjoyed the book and Irving's tone that I know and love, it is not nearly as beloved to me as Garp, Cider House, Owen Meany and Hotel New Hampshire. If you love Irving, read it-- you'll like it-- but if you are just trying him out, this is not the one to begin with.
danielle
as always, john irving creates beautiful characters. each of the four main characters represent a different angle in an approach to life and it is easy to align your loyalties with one of them while still completely understanding the others.

severin scares me a little because i think that's who i relate to the most.
Zachary Jernigan
I've read good books that feature horrible people doing stupid-ass things. This is not one of those good books. I wouldn't have been surprised if I got herpes in my eye from reading it. I didn't, to be clear, but it wouldn't have surprised me.
Adam
A short novel by Irving standards, with interesting relationship dynamics and back stories. The characters, however, are extremely unlikable and take away any desire the reader may have for a lengthier examination or even a resolution.
Sterlingcindysu
Even though it's a short book at 154 pages, I found myself forgetting some of the past history and characters in the foursome. (and it's a "foursome" wink wink, nudge, nudge) Lots of wrestling metaphors including the title, where one of the main characters used to wrestle in the 158 lb weight class. He would criticize books by saying, "it's a fair 134 lb class" which would mean it's not a heavy weight.

On the cover, the heart is upside down because of the jealousies and secrets the four have aga
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Thomas Strömquist
An early Irving, shows great promise and is in no way bad, but compared to his later offerings this feels a bit rushed, impatient and crude. Kind of short also.
Rebekah Weatherspoon
Read this a while ago. It's bizarre thinking of Irving writing sex scenes that take place in the same room where I had freshman gym.
Lee Kofman
Albeit quite moralistic in its depiction of non-monogamy, this book has many great qualities. The storytelling voice reminded me that of another book I love: The Leviathan by Paul Auster. It’s this intelligent and observant voice that narrates dramatic events in a sort-of old-fashioned way in the best sense of this adjective – relaxed, generous, coherent rather than fragmented. I also like the structure of this novel, how effortlessly it delivers many dramatic events but without building ‘scenes ...more
Robert Day
My first impression on reading this book was that the author was recyling some of the stories and anecdotes from his first book Setting Free the Bears.

My second impression was that apart from the obvious overarching theme of wife-swapping, this book doesn't really have a story.

My third impression was much like my second, but was accompanied by a growing conviction that this isn't really a storybook at all; it's a series of therapy sessions for the author.

The way that the text dwells on this or t
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Lisa Cook
I love John Irving. There is something so compelling and honest and ridiculous about his writing. This novel started off well and just kept going from there. I was engrossed with the characters, I was kept guessing with the plot and I actually had two audible gasps while reading. It was a very interesting and engaging novel.

I had no idea this novel was going to go where it was going to go. Seriously. What started with a description of war-torn Europe then transformed into a novel about two marri
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Roger
I don't like the first two novels by John Irving. I could not even finish Setting Free the Bears or the Water Method Man. So I had little expectation for novel #3. And I was not disappointed. The opening of the book contains the brutality of WWII and is dark and foreboding. The novel never brightens up as he proceeds through the relationship between the two couples. The narrator of the book seems to think he's better than the other three people in the sexual foursome they have assembled, particu ...more
CVV
“Look,” he said, “she just needs to get her pride back. I know, because I have to get my pride back, too. It’s really very simple. She knows I didn’t really want the whole thing, and she knows you were thinking more about yourself than about, her. We were all thinking more about ourselves than about Utch. And you were all thinking mode about yourselves than about me. Now you just have to be patient and continue to do as you’re doing – only a little less aggressively. Help her help to hate me, bu ...more
Esther
L’histoire de deux couples qui font l’expérience « d’échangisme », c’est-à-dire qu’ils échangent entre eux le partenaire sexuel. Il y a beaucoup de sexe, beaucoup de lutte et aussi de souffrance dans cette histoire… même pour un Irving!

Une « étude comportementale » profonde de quatre personnes, qui vivent la même expérience, mais chacun la sent dans sa façon complètement différente.
Un, qui parait se voir au-dessus de toute complication et qui profite simplement des rencontres avec la femme de l
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Holly
Two couples, Utchka Kudashvili and the unnamed narrator, and Severin Winter and Edith Fuller, have decided to swap partners, to swing, but only as long as everyone is happy. As soon as jealousy, dishonesty, or (heaven forbid) love is felt by even a single participant, the whole thing was to be bagged. Understandably this oversimplificated plan spirals into the mires of human complexity and emotion.

This is told in the first person; the narrator is a professor who writes bad historical fiction. He
...more
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John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. The World According to Garp, which won the National Book Award in 1980, was John Irving’s fourth novel and his first international bestseller; it also became a George Roy Hill film. Tony Richardson wrote and directed the adaptation for the screen of The Hotel New Hampshire (1984). Irving’s novels are now translated into thirty ...more
More about John Irving...
A Prayer for Owen Meany The World According to Garp The Cider House Rules The Hotel New Hampshire A Widow for One Year

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“People regard art too highly, and history not enough” 4 likes
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