Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Widow for A Year, by John Irving

If I'm being honest I was not super impressed with Irving this time around.  When comparing A Widow for a Year to his other more controversial and edgy works like Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany, it just fell short.  I realize that every book cannot be a masterpiece, and that certainly a single writer is going to have some books that just aren't as wildly popular as others, but after experiencing the best of Irving, I was really surprised by how little this book moved me.

The writing was solid, exactly what I've come to expect from Irving.  The content just wasn't as fascinating as the other books of his that I've read previously.  He managed to make his topic about as entertaining as it could possibly be, but unfortunately I didn't find the topic that interesting to begin with.  

Irving is a master at bringing several diverse "mini-stories" with a central unifying and underlying theme into one cohesive plot.  He also manages to weave the varying perspectives of multiple characters and multiple time lines seamlessly into that plot.  This is no small feat, and when you read any of his novels, you can't help but be impressed by how flawlessly he manages this.  

Irving's characters are well developed and generally unique while still be relatable enough that you can easily picture them and understand why they react the way they do within the story.  They become so realistic by the end of the story that you do feel as if you know them, as if they are real people you have encountered in your life.

I didn't care for the story much, and probably wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't been listening to it on my daily commute to and from work.  Because it was an audio book and because I didn't have anything better to listen to on my way to work each day, I finished it.  It probably wouldn't have made the cut now that my commute has been shortened to a mere 10 minutes round trip.  I can't stress enough that it wasn't the writing style or writer's ability that kept me from enjoying A Widow for a Year.  I simply wasn't interested in the storyline.  Irving writes a wide variety of novels, about many different, often controversial, themes.  If the synopsis of Widow for a Year doesn't sound like your cup of tea, I recommend that you check out all of Irving's books and pick one that does appeal to your tastes.  If you are interested in the basic premise of one of Irving's books then I can almost grantee you will not be disappointed.

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