Here’s a big one – about 800 pages, so it either requires a big investment of your time or will provide you with hours of entertainment. Depends whether you’re a John Irving fan or not. I am.
The story revolves around Jack Burns, a precocious four year old, who remains that age for about half the novel. He and his tattooist mother hunt around Europe for the father that abandoned them. He is easy to track – a gifted church organist with a tattoo addiction that seduces young girls, then has to leave. Between the churches, tattoo parlors and young girls, his trail is not hard to follow. But they always arrive just after he has left.
Even as a boy, we find that Jack has his fathers lady killer looks and he is desired by girls and women alike. Finally, at age 32 Jack goes in search of his father retracing the steps his mother took when he was 4.
Not going to tell you any more as it would be unfair to you to spoil the plot – will Jack find his father? I did have trouble liking Jack – not as a child, all kiddies are likeable – but as an adult he seems emotionally isolated. But you don’t always need to like a character to like a novel.
The pace is slow – it’s a wandering novel, full of the coincidences and twists expected of John Irving. Perhaps not his best, but a good long yarn.
“Life forces enough final decisions on us. We should have the sense to avoid as many of the unnecessary ones as we can.”