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The 158-Pound Marriage

3.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,455 Ratings  ·  296 Reviews
John Irving's third and perhaps darkest novel, The 158-Pound Marriage examines the sexual revolution-era trend of 'swinging' (partner-swapping) via a glimpse into the lives of two couples in a small New England college town who enter casually into such an affair, with disastrous consequences.

The narrator (who never identifies himself by name) is a college professor and a r
Paperback, 222 pages
Published January 1st 1980 by Corgi (first published 1974)
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Jun 28, 2007 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Sep 03, 2007 Tory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 22, 2012 Sharyl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
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
Aug 08, 2009 Jaslo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 05, 2012 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
After reading John Irving's A Son Of The Circus a few months ago and enjoying it (see my review: ), 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
Oct 03, 2011 Glen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 30, 2011 Rebekah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 05, 2011 hcelvis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 29, 2015 Elena rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think that this is a book that some bored housewife would probably enjoy. For me, there was nothing interesting, it took too much time to built the main characters and the rest of it was just sex. I barely had the energy to finish the book.
Nov 03, 2012 Klelly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 22, 2010 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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'
Feb 28, 2012 Daniel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"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
Sep 07, 2015 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a compelling and startling book. Irving does a superb job of feeding you each character’s history in order to understand why this foursome even happens and for me, these character backgrounds were truly the meat of the book. Because you know so much about each member you can realize the tensions and trigger points exposed during their affairs together. The underlying theme is this: scorn, jealousy and rage disguised by carnal desire cannot stay hidden forever.
Aug 12, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 25, 2015 Vessela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first Irving and I'm quite impressed. And this is not even considered to be one of his best works. I love the way he introduces the characters and the story. Complex charactrs and human relations, and some beautiful descriptions of love scenes I reread several times. I can't wait to read Owen Meany and Garb.
Andy Plonka
Dec 08, 2015 Andy Plonka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Irving always has a message to go along with his wry humor and it is quite evident in this one.
Aug 29, 2013 Joell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 28, 2015 Neri. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. At first it was pretty weird in typical John Irving fashion but then it was pretty slow but enjoyable. J. Irving isn't afraid to tackle issues that most people are afraid to talk about in public and this book is one of those issues - the swap of partners. You can also view this as a satyre on modern relationships and family issues. A more mature reader material.
Aug 16, 2012 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 24, 2008 danielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 30, 2014 Zachary Jernigan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 10, 2011 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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.
Dave Fellows
Jan 18, 2016 Dave Fellows rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5/5 stars. Well, it's not really one you want to be reading to your children or your grandparents (or prudes!) but this is certainly an original novel that won't remind you of much else you've ever read before! Essentially, it's about two couples who agree to spouse-swap as long as none of them ever feel uncomfortable with the setup, but a marriage is hard enough when there are just two of you, never mind four. This is a fast read, and I disagree with a previous reviewer's claim that this is 'Ga ...more
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
Dec 14, 2014 Lee Kofman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty-six. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven.
Mr. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for his novel The World According to Garp. He received an O. Henry Award
More about John Irving...

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