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A Son of the Circus

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  16,084 Ratings  ·  569 Reviews
The doctor was fated to go back to Bombay; he would keep returning again and again - if not forever, at least for as long as there were dwarves in the circus.
Born a Parsi in Bombay, sent to university and medical school in Vienna, Dr Farrokh Daruwalla is a Canadian citizen - a 59-year-old orthopaedic surgeon, living in Toronto. Once, twenty years ago, Dr Daruwalla was the
Paperback, 682 pages
Published June 23rd 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published 1994)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 30, 2012 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012

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
Nov 09, 2007 Gail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 22, 2009 Tali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book by accident and discovered how rich a a story can be.
Mar 22, 2012 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india

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
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
Mar 07, 2008 Roy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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.
May 26, 2016 Mari rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Tässä oli liikaa henkilöitä, mikä sai aikaan sekavuuden tunteen eikä tarina kiinnostanut tarpeeksi. Toivottavasti oman hyllyn lukemattomat Irvingin kirjat ovat parempia kuin tämä.
Jan 26, 2009 Alys rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 09, 2009 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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....
Mar 19, 2016 Superstine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, 1990-2000
Fem stjerner bare for å illustrere at dette er min all-time Irving-favoritt.
Lisa Cook
Feb 13, 2017 Lisa Cook rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beyond
I love John Irving with an unbridled and, to be fair, probably pretty biased passion. I really haven't met an Irving book I didn't like. Despite the chaos, despite the coincidence, despite the crazy, I'm always irrevocably hooked from start to finish. A Son of the Circus was no exception.

A Son of the Circus is about Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla, and his practice as an orthopedist, and his quasi-adopted son John, and his career as a screenwriter, and his unlikely connection to an idealistic but clueless
Review: A Son Of The Circus by John Irving.

The book was lengthy, slow paced because of John Irving’s style of writing. However it didn’t take long for the story to captivate my interest. The murder/mystery plot and the many intricate themes were clear and essential throughout the story for the reader to keep track of the many scenarios and situations within the story. What I noticed about Irving’s characters was that they are always creative, different, no two alike, and the strange flaws he giv
Apr 08, 2013 Esther rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-a-copy
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
Dec 27, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 13, 2009 Ana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heard
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
Feb 13, 2011 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 12, 2014 Alice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
CV Rick
Nov 18, 2011 CV Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mainstream
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
Katie Glanz
Dec 01, 2010 Katie Glanz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Feb 06, 2012 Kapuss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 24, 2012 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Carol Bee
I dropped this after the first 100 pages as I found it hard going getting into the life of circus dwarfs.

A couple of months later I picked it up again and WOW it really did take off for me.

A fascinating story and set of characters, generally based in India, but I found it a shocking story at times. I've read several books based in India and I am always taken aback at the poverty, dire living conditions, insanitary conditions and the lack of human respect for women. It is very difficult to unde
Aug 05, 2007 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Is it just me..? 28 161 Apr 18, 2014 09:29AM  
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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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“The more clearly one sees this world; the more one is obliged to pretend it does not exist.” 59 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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