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The World According to Garp by John Irving

By Teabelly | Books | May 14, 2009 | Comments ()

By Teabelly | Books | May 14, 2009 |


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I should start this off by saying I love John Irving. He's up there with my all time favourite authors ever. And I have read Garp before, years ago, and I loved it and was heartbroken by it and couldn't really bring myself to read it again until now. I don't think I enjoyed it as much this time around, which is a shame, but I still love the writing and the story for the most part.

So, the story of Garp. He's born T. S. Garp after his mother, Jenny Fields (a nurse), sleeps with a patient known only as Technical Sergeant Garp. Jenny is strong willed and wants a child, but doesn't want to conform to the day's standards and marry to do so. The patient has shrapnel in his brain and can do little but say his own name and get constant erections. And thus, Garp is born.

His childhood is spent at an all boys' school, and we follow his formative years there and encounters with girls leading eventually to Helen Holm, whom he marries. After Garp finishes school he and his mother go to Vienna, so Garp can focus on his writing, and it is during this time Jenny Fields writes her autobiography A Sexual Suspect, and she becomes a feminist icon. Garp is a successful writer in his own right, and he returns to the US and marries Helen, and they have two sons. As a father he is terrified of all the bad things that can happen to his children, and is often over protective.

Although he loves Helen, Garp does have affairs with other women, including babysitters and the wife of Helen's friend. But it is Helen's own affair that leads to one of the saddest parts of the book, an accident from which they will not all fully recover.

There's so much more that goes on, especially in regards to Jenny Fields and her work with women, and a group called the Ellen Jamesians, but I'd be here all day. On this reading I found Garp to be a bit more of an asshole than I remembered him, even though he is basically a good guy. I guess he's somewhat superior. And although I liked it last time, the extended epilogue which goes in to detail about everyone's lives after the main story is finished felt a bit unnecessary to me now. I just didn't need to know it all and would have been happy to imagine it for myself. But that's a small quibble. I still got sad at the sad bits and laughed at the more twisted, humorous parts. And I fear the Under Toad.

Check here for more of Teabelly's reviews.


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