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A Son of the Circus

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  14,207 ratings  ·  501 reviews
--The Boston Globe
"Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla, reared in Bombay by maverick foes of tradition, educated in Vienna, married to an Austrian and long a resident of Toronto, is a 59-year-old without a country, culture or religion to call his own....The novel may not be 'about' India, but Irvi
Paperback, 704 pages
Published August 30th 1995 by Ballantine Books (first published 1994)
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My favorite Irving book. I have a love/hate relationship with Irving's work. "Son" is a madhouse of a novel, even for Irving. The plot(s) are dizzyingly complicated; the characters as bizarre as always, but somehow believable. I loved the feeling for India in the book; and the humor--oh my! The scene in the cab made me laugh until I cried, thus waking up my husband, as I was reading in bed. If you can tolerate really, really weird situations, don't mind some mild but off-the-wall sexual referenc ...more
I read this book by accident and discovered how rich a a story can be.
Somewhere in a vacuous universe of this tube, Joey bumped into GR.

Joey: Hi, you look familiar with me. Have we met before? You must be … one of my friends on Good Reads!

GR: Oh, yeah! You are …Joey! ( overwhelmed )

Joey: And you are ...GR! Oh, it’s nice to see ya here! ( shaking hands with GR)

GR: Oh, yeah! As though we haven’t seen each other for ages! ( laughs)
( then she saw a book Joey holding) Oh, you must be reading something. ( trying to look through it) Wait ! wait! Wait! You have been rea

The son of the circus from the title is Doctor Farokh Daruwalla, a somewhat surprising choice as main character that has to carry on his shoulders such a hefty narrative. At first glance he is a placid little man, of a rather short stature and rotund girth, neat and fussy but in general shy and insecure. As I followed his interior monologues for page after page I have come to compare him to a still pond that hides great depths beneath the calm surface.

as a Parsi and a Christian, a Bombayite an

I bought my battered, brown paged copy of “A Son of the Circus” second-hand at Blossoms Book House in Church Street, Bangalore. A previous owner had left an old used Bangladesh Biman (airways) boarding pass inside it. I used this souvenir of a journey, completed long ago, as a bookmark. By the time I finished this long book, this fragile strip of paper was a mere shadow of its former self.

The book begins with some pages of ‘Author’s Notes’. These start with the words: “This novel isn’t about In
Lisa Strube-Kilgore
I've always been a John Irving fan, but this one took me by surprise. It has a very slow start - I found myself struggling to get into it, thinking, "Why on earth would I care about an Indian circus and an Orthopedist's quest for dwarf blood?" (And yeah - it's exactly as weird as it sounds, at least at first.) I almost gave it up. Suddenly, though, after I pushed through the first two chapters, the dozens of characters started to gain their own identities, and all of a sudden, bang! , I was in ...more
2.5 stars. My least favorite John Irving book and the only one I can say that I did not especially like, not that it isn't written with his usual level of skill and attention to detail. But I found the plot and the characters far less addictive than that of the typical John Irving book. I probably would have rated this a little higher if it was written by someone else but I have the highest of expectations for Irving novels. He set a standard for himself with masterpieces such as The World Accor ...more
January/February 2010

Dwarfs and beggars, whores and transvestites, murderers and movie stars and twins separated at birth, and the doctor/amateur geneticist/really amateur writer who knows them all...

Of what I’ve read, this is John Irving’s most sprawling novel yet, a wild circus with a half-dozen acts all scrambling for the center spot. Easily worth five stars, but I probably read it wrong. Often, with Irving, you can set the book down and come back to it after a long absense, or even just pick
Thomas Strömquist
My favorite John Irving - I'm having a bit of hard time to single out what makes this one a notch above the rest (and above a huge number of others), but I'm certain that the intriguing setting of India and (this time) perfect blend of joy of telling a story and strange but likeable characters are keys to the whole.
Will Byrnes
I am a big fan of Irving, but I found this one disappointing.
Emi Bevacqua
I used to love John Irving, read most of what he wrote (The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Cider House Rules, The Water Method Man, The 158 lb Marriage) until A Widow for One Year and The Fourth Hand, which I hated and quit him over. So I was hesitant about A Son of the Circus, but then ended up falling in total love with it, and all the characters, even the minor ones.

The story is wacky, the main character Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla lives part-time in Canada and part-time in Bomb
I'm a John Irving fan and this book did not disappoint. He weaves together characters from different decades and different countries, complex and rich in detail. The book is both disturbing in its subject matter as most of his books are but compelling in a way that I could hardly put it down. A great summer or vacation read as it is close to 700 pages long.
Another excellent read from Mr Irving.

Plenty of characters, plot and pith in A Son of the Circus. For half of the novel I wasn't sure where it was going and I think this puts a lot of readers off. Personally I love this aspect to Irving's writing, the suspense of not just 'whodunnit' but 'where am I and what am I reading' had me hooked!

The only issue I would raise is the image it paints of LGBT India, though set some decades earlier than now I would worry that some people may find this novel o
It's a couple of years i read my first irving ever, and it's one of the few books which made me laugh out loud...hilarious situations, incredible characters, highly recommended....
Greg Z
This is my favorite John Irving. And on a recent plane trip, as I discussed Irving's books with the person seated beside me, she sad it was her least favorite. For me, "Circus" has Irving's most original characters, and his oddest settings. This one sits on the top shelf of my home library right next to Dickens' "Nicholas Nickleby." And sometimes when I walk by all my favorites, I just like to open them up at random and revisit a few "old friends," or simply just start reading it again, cover to ...more
Okay, I’ll admit it: Indian tales just don’t have the same appeal to me as those set in the U.S. or Europe. I’m hardly a xenophobe, but there’s just more of a “connection” when reading about familiar places, names, customs, etc. And so, when I glanced at the summary of this book during that phase when I first consider whether I even want to read a book or not, my first instinct was to pass on it (or at least put it as far down on my queue as possible, given that I couldn’t completely discount a ...more
The main story is basically a murder series. Over the time span of 20 years, prostitutes in Bombay are being killed and left with a remarkable drawing on their bellies. Only few people possess key information and only once they manage to unite their pieces of the puzzles do they eventually solve the mystery murders. However, for me, the characters and their stories as such were very much more in the foreground than the criminal case (and I am no fan of detective stories!)

I found this to be a cra
My decision to listen to this audiobook happened on the spur of the moment. It had to do with a really great sale at that was going to end in a few hours, and the fact that I am part Parsi. I didn't have any familiarity with Irving, only a vague, mild, positive feeling based on the fact that I read The World According to Garp ages ago and someone I respect once told me that A Prayer for Owen Meany was one of her favorite books.

In the preface, Irving explains that the Indian setting i
Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla's fascination with the circus, dwarfs, and his place decidedly between the India of his childhood and the Canada of his adulthood, finds himself back in Bombay and caught in a vortex of people and circumstances surrounding a serial killer whose decades of murder are about to come to an end.

John Irving's A Son of the Circus is not about India or even about the clubmen, dwarf clowns, transvestite whores, missionaries, and movie stars who populate the almost 700 pages of this
CV Rick
There are authors who can seemingly throw in any disparate elements into the literary blender and come out with a well-conceived story. John Irving is one of those. Take an Indian Orthopedist and part-time screenwriter, a dwarf, twins separated at birth, a slutty c-list Hollywood actress, a crippled begger child, and a transexual. Throw ingredients into a typewriter, stir for several hundred pages, bake in a plot oven set to wild and viola, you have a work of wonder.

What I like so much about Joh
Otra vez el señor Irving me ha encandilado!!
Cada vez me gusta más este escritor. Y eso que esta historia es un verdadero delirio, de verdad! Al principio no salía de mi asombro. Me parecía increíble que fuese cierto lo que estaba leyendo. Yo, que tiendo a obsesionarme un poco con el tema de la credibilidad (cualquier cosa que no entre dentro de una cierta lógica interna me expulsa de inmediato de la historia), estaba completamente enganchado antes de pasar de la página 100. Ya estaba dentro y no
Katie Glanz
This book was pretty strange and that's usually fine with me, but at times the weirdness seemed pointless and the narrative became disjointed. It was also hard for me to "care" about the characters, as they all seemed pretty amoral and shallow.

I also have a few issues with the way the Irving portrays India. While I like his exploration of immigrant identities, I was a little turned off by the way he described India and Indian people. His depiction seemed a little too otherizing, typically weste
I've liked all John Irving books I've read and I'd rate this about middle of the pack. My favorites are A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules. This book didn't draw me in as tightly as the others but was still very good. It's somewhat centered (as much as any Irving book can be said to have a center) around a serial killer murderer. It's surrounded by quirky characters who play parts related to, or not related to, the serial killer. For some reason, the epilogue stood out for me and ...more
Badly Drawn Girl

John Irving is one of my favorite authors and this book is my favorite of his (thus far). This was one of those books that I found myself savoring in hopes of putting off the inevitable ending. It's a good sized book but I still wasn't ready to say goodbye at the end. I loved the depth of the details. John Irving brings India to life in this book. The characters are well developed and we get to know them well. I also found myself laughing aloud several times which rarely happens.

Regardless of w
Critics may complain about the repetitive images of John Irving's books, but I love how he weaves the symbolism and influences of his life into his work. A Son of the Circus includes the common imagery of India, Toronto, central Europe, dwarfism, circuses, etc. from his other works. (More on that topic here: [])

As always, I love his writing voice and the flow of the story. In this one, his nod to Graham Green is also a fun aspect of the story, a tribute to
So. A series of events that are glued together by coincidences, and whilst this starts intriguingly it diminishes in the second half in focusing in the arrest of the killer. Um. For a book bought on a whim in Weeke's Wessex cancer trust shop I had no expectations of this author, despite apparently everyone in the known universe (except me apparently) knowing who this chap is. Must say that I can't see what the hype is all about. Um...
So to the book. The characters are real for the most part. Fa
Kathleen Hagen
A Son of the Circus, by John Irving, a-minus, Narrated by David Collacci, Produced by Brilliance Audio, Downloaded from

John Irving states emphatically in his introduction to this book that it is not a book about India. In fact, he says it’s a book about people who are outsiders and don’t feel they belong anywhere. The protagonist, although born in India,has spent most of his adult life in Canada, and is a Canadian citizen. But he does not feel he belongs in Canada. He also does not
Interesting take on matters of immigration, identity, globalization. Who belongs where? Where is home? I'll probably look up some actual reviews of this book to see what people with better background in postcolonial literature think about it.

Note: I spend undue amount of time looking at cats and making inappropriate jokes online.

Note note: do yourself a favor and get this on Kindle if available. The hardback version is enormous.
There were occasions during reading this, that I had to stop and ask myself why? Why was I reading this? Why did the characters do what they do? And why did I care so much? I got myself completely drawn into this mad, confusing, sensory world and am just a little bit sad that I've left it.

The situation that the author has set up is bizarre - a doctor, born in India, married in Austria, living in Canada - who returns to India on a regular basis to volunteer at a children's hospital, while also se
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Is it just me..? 28 158 Apr 18, 2014 09:29AM  
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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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“The more clearly one sees this world; the more one is obliged to pretend it does not exist.” 54 likes
“In our hearts... there must abide some pity for those people who have always felt themselves to be separate from even their most familiar surroundings, those people who either are foreigners or who suffer a singular point of view that makes them feel as if they’re foreigners - even in their native lands. In our hearts... there also abides a certain suspicion that such people need to feel set apart from their society. But people who initiate loneliness are no less lonely than those who are suddenly surprised by loneliness, nor are they undeserving of our pity.” 11 likes
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