The first thing that struck me about this book was the heart stopping beauty of Marion, a central character near the beginning of the book It s tough to get images that concrete in written words, but Irving handles it without strain Its not just a physical description, its the way that the rest of the image is a bit darker, a bit fuzzier when Marion is in the picture, like Irving is using the depth of field in a photograph to highlight the subject, like her physical brilliance is so overwhelming that everything else is dimmed.
Looking back, though, that s really all that there was for me in this book The post Marion sections of the book are slushy and incongruous where Irving was so careful not to create a caricature of beauty in the first part of the book, the later parts are almost nothing but caricature The detective, the prostitute, the distant, womanizing father.
In all, this was object lesson in leaving well enough alone Had the first third of the book been left to stand on its own, it would have been a sparse, elegant novel With the weight of the rest of the book, it was much less.
A Widow for One Year turned out to be better than I initially thought, although the pages featuring graphic sex scenes were kind of disturbing and felt out of place in the story This book otherwise not only paints a vivid, realistic portrait of grief, but also love and nostalgia.
John Irving has yet again created a whole world between the covers of a novel Characters grow old with the reader, experience lust and loss, love and life The thoughtfulness of his every detail and the concise placement of every word create a landscape vivid than realityOne of the interesting topics of conversation in A Widow for One Year involves the main character s attitude towards autobiographical fiction Irving s protagonist, world famous author Ruth Cole, gives one hope that the powers of the imagination can compensate for lacking experience Or, as would seem the case with my imagination, compensate for inobservance When Ruth doubts her imagination and seeks real life research for inspiration, she finds that reality is rarely as scripted and contained as her fiction Appropriately enough, even her harsh reality is just a construct of Irving although I am not familiar enough with him to know if it comes from his imagination or not Ruth vehemently criticizes a journalistic tendency to mirror one s stories on autobiography yet one wonders how many of Irving s repeat themes stick with him due to his personal history.
One aspect of A Widow for One Year that struck a chord other than the glorious title was the fact that, except for on a few rare occasions, the characters did not change A love struck boy, aged into his fifties, carries his idealized boyhood obsession throughout his adulthood A philandering husband merely morphs into a philandering divorc , and a woman bearing the sadness of the world carries it with her throughout self inflicted exile A whorish best friend does not let life jade her into changing, although she may at times feel a twinge of regret for the innocent pleasures she forfeits In the end, who has changed The characters have perhaps learned to understand each other, but doesn t the understanding they receive allow them to sink ever deeper into the comfort of their own well established personalities I also had the pleasure of watching the movie based on the beginning third of this book, entitled A Door in the Floor starring Kim Basinger and Jeff Bridges I thought it wise to focus solely on the exposition if it could even be given such a flippant categorization , which in itself contained that is real than your typical reader s life Although I would eventually become quite fond of our 30 something female protagonist who does not appear until the latter two thirds, the episodes surrounding her during that fateful childhood summer are certainly what establish the story s weight and depth of feeling Ruth s ability to create such powerful memories of family members that have only ever existed in photographs is a testament to the power of the imagination both Ruth s and John Irving s.
Quattro personaggi tutti scrittori, quattro personaggi al limite Uno scrittore di favole alcolizzato, egocentrico e donnaiolo una scrittrice di bestsellers abbastanza disturbata uno scrittore di romanzi mediocri che non riesce a riprendersi da una storia d a di sesso di mille anni prima una scrittrice di gialli rosa che ha abbandonato una figlia di quattro anni perch aveva perduto altri due figli adolescenti in un incidente d auto pochi mesi prima.
Un romanzo molto complesso Come scatole cinesi, si nascondono tra le sue pagine altre storie nella storia, interi capitoli di altri libri, personaggi che entrano ed escono a sorpresa Si leggono pagine che trasudano un dolore straziante e pagine fin troppo umoristiche, pagine lievi e delicate ed altre ad alto contenuto erotico Irving si destreggia tra tanta complessit con una scrittura affilata e precisa con cui delinea in maniera eccelsa i personaggi che emergono con uno spessore ed una definizione non comune dando a ciascuno di essi una peculiarit propria Non il suo migliore , mi hanno detto , quindi sicuramente legger ancora qualcosa di Irving.
Just started I don t know but what s with all the italicized words Does the author do this in all his books Omg I just finished it It sucked so much The characters were all flat, reduced to one quirk and one obsession, with maybe one exception Rooie , and OMG again, why would a writer write about a writer writing about a writer And what was it with the main character s family of writers, and her mother s lover being a writer too And why would the author avoid simple names or pronouns, and use the sixteen year old or the strawberry blonde lawyer or the prostitute instead And the indignation, the tone of narration around the prostitute and her colleagues The prostitute was the only interesting character in the whole book, the only one I cared about, and I hated Ruth for what she did or rather didn t There I hated them all And the stupid dialogue tags, and the italics too.
But maybe I ll try other books of this author because I have heard lots of good things about them, and because I am a soft hearted reader Really.
Irving is not one of those writers who kicks out a new novel every year His novels are too carefully crafted, too dare I say it literary to be anything less than an evolutionary process After reading A Widow for One Year, I suspect his books are touchstones in his life, each representing a period in which he explores an idea or a philosophy Three in OneIrving divides A Widow for One Year into three major sections Don t be misled though None of the three are meant to stand on their own and each would be meaningless without the others.
Book one takes place in the Hamptons in 1958 It is in this book that the events which will forever mold all of the characters take place Irving also includes enough foreshadowing to clue us in on what will take place in the next two books Somehow though, the spoilers he gives us in the first chapter do nothing but enhance the reading experience and when the events unravel, they still manage to be fresh and surprising.
In this first book, Eddie falls irrevocably in love with Marion, Ruth learns to live with death and abandonment, Marion shuts down her heart, and Ted shows himself unable to change despite the traumatic events swirling around him.
In book two, Ruth and Eddie meet as adults in 1990 We meet Hannah, Ruth s best friend and other interesting characters Irving takes us on a book publicity tour to Amsterdam and forces us to witness that which we would otherwise avoid.
Book three takes place five years later in 1995 and is a book of resolutions Irving wraps up everyone s plot lines very neatly He very nearly gives us a happily ever after ending for each person Happy ending or no, there is definitely an ending with no strings left to unravel.
CharactersPerhaps one of the most amazing things about Irving s writing is his intense characterizations There are no perfect heroes in Widow for One Year and very few villains Even those people with whom we have the greatest exasperation show themselves in some aspect to be sympathetic Irving s characters are filled with quirks They defy any sort of norm or stereotype Indeed, perhaps some of the strength of Irving s writing is that just when he s gotten you to believe that a character is a stereotype, he shows you a different side of them or makes them act in a way that is unexpected, yet consistent with the character Even the dead have a role in this novel Marion and Ted s two sons die four years before the novel begins yet they have a presence that is than ghostly that permeates every page.
TechniquesIrving uses foreshadowing better than any other author I ve ever read does He tells you in first chapter how the book will end, yet no one will want to leave before he finishes telling the tale Indeed, you ll hang on every page to figure out how he will get to the ending he has foretold.
Irving also frees his writing from the shackles of chronological time For all that each book is set in a particular year, he freely moves back and forth using both character memories and foreshadowing, making the actual when almost irrelevant A Widow for One Year is a nearly seamless picture of a lifetime It doesn t necessarily cover from birth to death, but you do feel you know everything you need to know about each person.
One of the real treats in this novel are the stories within the story Nearly all of the main characters are in the publishing industry, primarily as writers Irving includes their writings as an integral part of the novel He includes the complete text of two of Ted s children s books and summarizes the plots and themes of the novels of Ruth, Eddie, and Marion We even get a slight peek at Hannah s writings.
A Writer s LifeA Widow for One Year is a book that absolutely resists being summarized in a banal statement such as This book is about writing Or This book is about sex The book is about many things, and is complex enough to have different meanings for different people However, the complexity of the plot is not reflected in complex writing It is a very easy book to read and nearly impossible to put down once you ve started it.
Having made that disclaimer, let me say that yet another delightful part of this book is the comments Irving makes on writers and writing Irving tells us that writers are creative they create what they write, and yet, even the most original writer draws on his or her experiences and knowledge I can t help but wonder whether some of the book tour scenes, interviews, and articles weren t drawn from his own experience At the very least, I think he enjoyed poking fun at some of the publishing industry s foibles.
Irving s books have long ranked as some of my favorite novels The World According to Garp is a must read, and A Prayer for Owen Meany affected me like no other fiction book I d ever read While A Widow for One Year does not surpass A Prayer for Owen Meany, it comes very close.
I had really expected something different This is the 1st of his books that I have read but I knew he wrote The World According to Garp, Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany Maybe it is just this book but I have to say that Mr Irving has his mind in the gutter sorry to all of you who think this was a terrible thing to say He is funny sometimes and he does write memorable scenes, however right now we are perusing the red light district in Amsterdam There is sex on just about every page of this book and I am sick of it than 1 2 way through the book OK, I am finished now He can write a scene the shredded pornographic drawings in the hedge, the gardner stuck in the hedge I mean this is memorable writing He is often funny his commentary about the use of the semicolon in modern writing had me laughing out loud The children s stories are terrifying The Moleman is definitely nightmare material His writing is compared to Dickens and rightly so, I mean it IS that good However, and I do mean a BIG however, there are some things I really object to here 1 A bereaved mother has an affair with a teenage boy She is susceptible to this because she lost her teenage sons As a bereaved mother I find this kind of thinking just incomprehensible I also didn t think leaving Ruth was realistic Most bereaved mothers cling to their surviving children 2 There is so much sex in this book It is degrading, and feels insulting A quote from the book But grossness was the norm for many people Crudeness and prurient interests were the motivating humors for all sorts of individuals Whereas she wished of the population were better educated, she also believed that education was largely wasted on the majority of people she had met Mrs Dash a character in one of Ruth s stories another quote It galls me that seeking out the seedy, the sordid, the sexual, and the deviant is the expected if not altogether acceptable behavior of male writers it would surely benefit me, as a writer, if I had the courage to seek out of the seedy, the sordid, the sexual, and the deviant myself Ruth, the main female character, a writer 3 His obsession with breasts makes this story about Ruth s breasts as much as about anything else Do you think I exaggerate By the end I think the author must have been joking, the references became so frequent page 448 In Ruth s case, you couldn t even see her breasts page 449 Yeah, she had nice breasts page 451 She had nice breasts, Harry remembered page 478 It may have been his anniversary, but he was looking at your breasts page 482 And she really did have great breasts page 486 Graham won t leave my breasts alone This is just a tiny sampling of the constant reference to Ruth s breasts And there are Marion s breasts, Mrs Havelock s breasts, ad naseaum.
These aren t the only body parts we hear about, but I ve had enough.
He also throws the character of Ted away Ruth has no feelings about this I seem to have feelings about it than Ruth does Ruth was the only person Ted ever loved in his life Was her no feelings supposed to be his just reward for how he treated other women Editing this review to say I recommend reading him, despite my criticism I ve read five of his books and will read the rest as I find them.
Ruth Cole Is A Complex, Often Self Contradictory Character A Difficult Woman By No Means Is She Conventionally Nice But She Will Never Be ForgottenRuth S Story Is Told In Three Parts, Each Focusing On A Crucial Time In Her Life When We First Meet Her On Long Island, In The Summer Of Ruth Is Only FourThe Second Window Into Ruth S Life Opens In The Fall Of , When Ruth Is An Unmarried Woman Whose Personal Life Is Not Nearly As Successful As Her Literary Career She Distrusts Her Judgment In Men, For Good Reason A Widow for One Year Closes In The Autumn Of , When Ruth Cole Is A Forty One Year Old Widow And Mother She S About To Fall In Love For The First TimeRichly Comic, As Well As Deeply Disturbing A Widow for One Year Is A Multilayered Love Story Of Astonishing Emotional Force Both Ribald And Erotic, It Is Also A Brilliant Novel About The Passage Of Time And The Relentlessness Of Grief Front Flap The first couple hundred pages of the book, before it jumps forward several decades, are the most even, and it is this part of the story that is most endearing This first part introduces us to the story s three or four main characters and chronicles their shared summer of 1958 a summer which, you guessed it, has profound effects on the rest of all their lives.
And it is much of the rest of these lives that Irving takes us through in the remaining four hundred pages, and due to the front heavy nature of the book s dramatic set up it s probably unavoidable that the follow through seems noticeably lacking in some intensity.
But I was still happy to follow the characters along, and for the most part they all seem to end up in their correct places I didn t buy every plot turn twist and the shaky pages set in Amsterdam make it clear that Irving is far at home in his native New England , but Irving is a great storyteller and easily convinces the reader to weather the impressive storm of plot mechanics he again rouses to move things along All in all An enjoyable read, but pick up the satisfying Prayer for Owen Meany first.