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A Son of the Circus

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  16,729 Ratings  ·  594 Reviews
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from John Irving's In One Person.

A Hindi film star . . . an American missionary . . . twins separated at birth . . . a dwarf chauffeur . . . a serial killer . . . all are on a collision course. In the tradition of A Prayer for Owen Meany, Irving's characters transcend nationality. They are misfits--coming from everywhere, belonging n
ebook, 672 pages
Published September 23rd 2009 by Ballantine Books (first published 1994)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Edward Lorn
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paperbacks
This is the 8th book in my John Irving Challenge. I only have five books left. As I said in my review of the previous book, A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving was not the best choice for a year-long chronological study of an author's growth and decline. His books and characters are far too similar. I do not suggest recreating this project with this author. On with the review.

By Goodreads standards, two stars equals "okay". I wish there was something between "okay" and "I hated it", because tha
Nov 09, 2007 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 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 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
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: john-irving
DNF @ Page 355.

Yep, I'm giving up after investing so much time into this shaggy dog of a novel. I wanted to like it, really. Irving is one of my favorite authors and reading his stuff is always an unique experience. But this thing is ALL over the place: it doesn't know what it wants to be, or why. I can't keep up with the ever-expanding cast of characters nor can I find a reason to care about them. I don't know where the hell this thing is going, and I'm only halfway done. I just cannot keep go
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
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.
Mar 07, 2008 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
May 26, 2016 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.
Susanna Rautio
Sirkuksen poika oli Vesimiehen jälkeen pitkästyttävin John Irvingin kirja ikinä.

Kaoottinen kuin Intia, jossa melkein kaikki tapahtuu. Ei hurmaavalla tavalla vaan sekopäisesti.

On taas värikästä sakkia. Ikääntyvä tohtori ja parikymmentä muuta hahmoa, monikulttuurista ja -arvoista, sukupuoli-identiteettejä ja -tauteja, sirkusta, vammaisuutta, rikoksia, kääpiötä. Irvingille vähemmän ei todellakaan ole enemmän.

Tähdistä toisen annan Irvingin humanismille. En kirjalle.
Sep 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At long last I got around to reading Irving's long, LONG, LOOONG "A Son of the Circus", and despite its faults (and there are many, given its bloated 600+ page length), it's one of his best efforts, right up there with "A Prayer for Owen Meany", "...Garp", and "A Widow for One Year". I thought he'd be out of his element (if not out of his mind) writing about India, and put off reading it for more than a decade, although I wish I hadn't.

Irving lets the reader know in advance, however, that (alth
Harry Collier IV
Reread this and by the end I wished I hadn't. There is a great story in this book but halfway through Irving abandons it for personal politics and exploring issues such as homosexuality and aids. These issues had nothing to do with the story and so felt forced.
2 chapters before the end the main problem of the novel resolves itself leaving Irving two final chapters for wrapping up loose ends and believe it of not character development.
An internal problem was given to the main character in the fi
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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 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.
Catherine Amos
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has been over 30 years since I first introduced myself to Irving, and I'm happy to say that his skillfully-crafted prose, that sometimes reads as poetry, can still hit me in all the feels. I've long felt that Irving is Dickens reincarnated on this side of the pond. He once again manages to take an "ordinary" man and elaborate on the absurd twists and turns his life takes on his last trip to his home country of India. Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla is a self-proclaimed man without a country; he's an im ...more
Lisa Cook
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
633 pages, and I never grew tired of it. Well, the last chapter before the epilogue began the process of tying up loose ends, and there were a lot to tie up, so one could see that a long ending was under way. Irving was quite thorough about it, and actually I appreciate that. Irving's theme is that of a man who never quite feels at home. Dr. Daruwalla was born to a privileged family in India; he maintains a medical practice there for several months of the year, but his residence is now Toronto, ...more
May 16, 2011 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I love John Irving but this one is reminding me too much of Until I Find You, a long drawn out affair that proved to be an exercise in tedium. Moving on to something else.
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 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 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 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 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
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Is it just me..? 28 162 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...
“The more clearly one sees this world; the more one is obliged to pretend it does not exist.” 60 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.” 13 likes
More quotes…