Recommended by Ralph Mellon
The latest offering from John Irving (‘The World According To Garp’, ‘Hotel New Hampshire’, ‘The Cider House Rules’, among many others) is back up there among his best.
It’s another tale delving deeply into the lives of rather peculiar and idiosyncratic people, but, as usual, very carefully structured and with a tremendous amount of thought into characters you might superficially denounce as being a bit weird.
It’s a richly textured piece about sexual identity, with heavy doses of exploration surrounding relationships, perceptions, prejudices, acceptance and self-worth.
The narrator, a bisexual novelist called Billy Abbot, falls in love with an older transgender woman – a librarian – and the story covers several time periods and stages in Billy’s life – notably the 1980s American AIDS epidemic – from his realisation back in the 1960s that he was ‘a bit different’. It’s a very entertaining, thought-inducing read, and a good example of why an Irving novel is still something to be relished.