Not really quite sure how to summarize this one. Or explain my feelings. I read this one for the Decades and Book Awards Challenges and put it off, put it off, put it off. I did like this book–a lot, but I didn’t really know what to expect because I had heard so much praise for it. The best way that I can describe it is that it is like Tom Robbins but less blatantly metaphorical and less shocking. Although there is a lot of shock value in this book.
And sex. In fact it had a lot of the same sexual themes as Flesh and Blood (minus AIDS) although Irving is in many ways a little more subtle in his terminology and descriptions than Cunningham. The book begins with Jenny, a nurse taking care of patients during the war–particularly a Technical Sergeant Garp whom she has sex with in order to conceive a child (because she doesn’t want to get married or have a baby the “conventional” way). The book is about her son, Garp, from the time he is a baby until…well…his whole life. :) The book discusses the intricacies of his marriage and affairs, his relationship with his children, the heartaches and joys of his life.
I really liked this book–but it was tedious at times. Garp is a writer in the novel, which is a major part of the plot. Little snippets of his works are included within the book but I found myself getting bogged down in these stories. They didn’t take up a great length of the book, but I found them distracting and poorly written (which I guess maybe they were supposed to be?). Another thing that I found distracting was the narrator; the narrator is omniscient and mostly just a narrator, but sometimes he made his presence a little too noticeable. I’m not sure how to explain this except that the narration sometimes felt contrived. Not like the narrator of The Unbearable Lightness of Being who I thought was entertaining and endearing. Overall a good book and won’t be my last Irving–but maybe I’ll read a little Robbins first.