A Son of the Circus

A Son of the Circus

by John Irving


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A Hindi film star, an American missionary, a pair of twins separated at birth, a diminutive chauffeur, and a serial killer collide in a riotous novel by the author of The World According to Garp

“His most entertaining novel since Garp.The New York Times Book Review

A Son of the Circus is comic genius . . . get ready for [John] Irving's most raucous novel to date.”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 Irving's imagined India, which Daruwalla visits periodically, is a remarkable achievement—a pandemonium of servants and clubmen, dwarf clowns and transvestite whores, missionaries and movie stars. This is a land of energetic colliding egos, of modern media clashing with ancient cultures, of broken sexual boundaries.”New York Newsday

“His most daring and most vibrant novel . . . The story of circus-as-India is told with gusto and delightful irreverence.”—Bharati Mukherjee, The Washington Post Book World

“Ringmaster Irving introduces act after act, until three (or more) rings are awhirl at a lunatic pace. . . . [He] spills characters from his imagination as agilely as improbable numbers of clowns pile out of a tiny car. . . . His Bombay and his Indian characters are vibrant and convincing.”The Wall Street Journal

“Irresistible . . . powerful . . . Irving's gift for dialogue shines.”Chicago Tribune

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345417992
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/1997
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 672
Sales rank: 429,730
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.21(h) x 1.36(d)

About the Author

John Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. In 1992, Mr. Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules—a film with seven Academy Award nominations.



Date of Birth:

March 2, 1942

Place of Birth:

Exeter, New Hampshire


B.A., University of New Hampshire, 1965; also studied at University of Vienna; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1967

Read an Excerpt


Excerpted from "A Son of the Circus"
by .
Copyright © 1997 John Irving.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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A Son of the Circus 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Arthur Banach More than 1 year ago
if you enjoyed A prayer for Owen Meany then this is the book for you
GingerSaiyan More than 1 year ago
Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla, an Indian orthopedic surgeon living in Canada, sporadically returns to his native country in order to revisit the circus. Even though he was born in India, he just doesn't feel at home there. He is constantly discriminated against because of his skin color, and the only place he enjoys being at is the circus. On one of his trips back to India, he becomes involved in the investigation concerning a serial killer. The killer's M.O. is the same as two bodies Farrokh had inspected years earlier and he is immersed in the search for answers. However, the killer may be closer to him than he realizes. John Irving has a unique way of explaining his story plot. He begins his book by diving directly into the story. As he progresses, chapters are set aside that are set in the past in order to explain the events that Irving has unfolded. As he explains a certain key point in the plot, the next chapter goes in depth on the specific aspects of that scene in order to provide insightful information to the setting. While the novel may be confusing at times, it is easier to understand later once the explanation has been read. A Son of the Circus almost seems to be written out of order in the way the story seems to jump around. However, as the plot is revealed, it is easier to become familiar with the format and adjust accordingly. By writing in this fashion, Irving is able to relay the story without giving away any spoilers. In doing so, the novel is able to be read in a different style and is viewed in a different light. John Irving writes with a care free style while, at the same time, providing a more mature way of seeing the world. He emphasizes the harshness of living and the hardships people of different cultures experience. Racism, sexism, and many other types of discrimination are displayed in his novel. Irving provides countless examples of the difficulties of being different and shows how to become a better person. By providing an array of characters from cripples to prostitutes, Irving is able to capture the true nature of humanity to its core. A Son of the Circus is directed at adults or young adults and can be somewhat crude in its style of writing. This actually adds to the reality of the storyline and provides an interesting new view on reading. By including vulgar comments and scenes, Irving is able to display the harsh setting people in the slums of Bombay experience. In effect, Irving shows the soft spots of society by emphasizing the rough spots. Irving's writing style is completely his own and is able to portray the very essence of the picture he is trying to create.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kindof disappointing actually. John Irving says he has never been to Bombay..I guess that's why he did such a pathetic job of describing it. The storyline was quite intriguing really, though the overall effect was spoilt thanks to his totally inaccurate descriptions of Bbay. Don't get me wrong...the plot, characters et all are well-described in Irving's wonderful style. But if you're an Indian who knows the real Bombay, then you probably won't enjoy this so much..but otherwise...its worth a read, at least for Irving fans.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Irving is like a circus juggler balancing plates in the air while riding a unicycle on a tightrope. This novel (one of my all-time favorites) contains no less than 4 distinct interdependent subplots. He clearly loves his protagonist, the mild-mannered Farrokh. Dhar is an intriguing and impenetrable sex symbol. Nancy is a tragic heroine, with Vijay Patel her rock-like savior. The trick to enjoying this novel is staying in it--not pulling back to ask 'What is going on here?' The author weaves in and out among his characters and their situations, and expertly links present and past. I think the reason this book succeeds so well is that it reflects reality. We are all products of the past working unseen in the background of the present. Too bad there's so much unrest in India these days--the descriptions of Bombay make one thirst to visit. This is one novel that could never be made into a movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being a John Irving fan may help as one wades through this 600+ page book. I found it an interesting glimps inside India and was never bored and often surprised. The only fault I could find was a rather unsatisfying 'wrap up' of an ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bombay provides an ideal setting for Irving's usual cast of misfits. Although the author professes to know little about India, he does a marvelous job of describing Bombay, from the smell of the slums to the British colonial remnants. While Son of the Circus is not as touching as some of his other novels, I found it thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious.
bookCelt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The hand imagery (A Prayer for Owen Meany) is resurrected in this work set in India. Irving (or rather, his researchers) did the homework on this one.
emanate28 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The only book that I've read so far by John Irving that I truly liked & enjoyed. (I've read Life According to Garp, Prayer for Owen Meany, 1 or 2 others that I can't even remember...)
izzynomad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
bizarre, funny, random, and unbelievably creative- Dr. Daruwalla is a man with no country and no religion, who keeps being drawn back to India to take blood from circus dwarfs. with a few secrets up his sleeve, he participates in the investigation of a transsexual serial killer when the life of his bollywood acting-stepson is threatened. it's about people who don't belong anywhere, for people who don't belong anywhere and like to read about other people who don't belong anywhere.
rolyaty on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this book by irving as well. Great book, different subject matter. I love India, and enjoy such a different book out of one of my favorite authors. Great characters, good plot, nicely paced book. Good read.
estellen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one didn't grab me at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
itbgc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really tried to like this book as it sounded like it would be terrific, but I could not get interested in it. Too many details. It seemed like certain thoughts were repeated, and repeated, and repeated. . . After 70 pages, I decided not to waste any more time on it. There are too many better books out there to read.
sunqueen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite John Irving books. Totally captures the spirt of Indian culture, with his unique plot twists.
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MickiBrose More than 1 year ago
I love John Irving and have read all of his books. That being said, this was a little hard to get into as the subject matter was so foreign. I really did not like any of the characters until the introduction of Martin Mills. When he came on the scene John Irving was in his element and at his best. I loved the building of this character. But the story kept dragging. The Epilogue was the best part. If you are an Irving fan, I would still recommend this book.
maxiann More than 1 year ago
This book is as great as "The World According to Garp" or "A Prayer for Owen Meany." Since it is one of my favorites, I put a copy on my Nook because it's much easier to read thick books from the Noon than having it propped on your stomach! As with all of John Irving's books, the story is captivating. Read it!
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