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A Widow for One Year by John Irving
  

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June 2014 Guest Editor Freya North on A Widow for One Year...

This is a stunning novel by one of my favourite authors. Typical Irving, it’s the perfect blend of drama and bawdiness beautifully told. His heroine, Ruth Cole, is an author and her story is told through three sections – her childhood and the loss of her two brothers; when she is unmarried and forging her writing career; finally, when she has become a widow at the age of 41. There was so much of her personality – especially her process as an author – that rang true with me. Irving’s attention to detail is incredible – I ‘saw’ everything he wanted me to but nothing was description just for the sake of it. The last sentence is stunning in bringing this lengthy and complex story full circle – so moving and satisfying. Dare I say I preferred it to Owen Meany?

If you like John Irving you might also like to read books by William Kowalski, Tim O'brien and John Updike.

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Synopsis

A Widow for One Year by John Irving

'One night when she was four and sleeping in the bottom bunk of her bunk bed, Ruth Cole awoke to the sound of lovemaking - it was coming from her parents' bedroom'. This is the story of Ruth Cole. It is told in three parts: on Long Island, in the summer of 1958, when she is only four; in 1990, when she is an unmarried woman whose personal life is not nearly as successful as her literary career; and, in the autumn of 1995, when Ruth Cole is a forty-one-year-old widow and mother. She's also about to fall in love for the first time...


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Reviews

'Wickedly knowing, mischievously post-modern and magical realist along the lines of Gunter Grass, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Robertson Davies' Time Out

'Gripping, full of horror and humour' Literary Review

'A compelling chronicle of love and loss... His most intricate and fully imagined novel' San Francisco Chronicle

'Irving's storytelling has never been better' New York Times

'His best since Garp' Time

'Very few novels have ever made me cry. Irving's The World According to Garp was one. Now, 20 years later, he scores again on my emotional map. Widow is a book to reassure: Dickensian in scope, hilarious on one page, heartbreaking just a few pages later, sexy all the way through, it winds its way through the lives of its oh-so-fallible characters like a devious serpent, slow, languorous in its rhythm, ever ready to bite ferociously at the first opportunity. It's about characters who are all somehow writers (and one brave, lone Dutch policeman), about motherhood, love lost, regained and never forgotten, loyalty and betrayal, the intransigent demands of the heart and the soul. In one word, it's about life. And all its damning contradictions. Like all the best novels, it will stay with you for a long time, seeding your mind with questions and truly unforgettable images, every description a joy or a heartbreak.' (Kirkus UK)

About the Author

John Irving was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942, and he once admitted that he was a 'grim' child. Although he excelled in English at school and knew by the time he graduated that he wanted to write novels, it was not until he met a young Southern novelist named John Yount, at the University of New Hampshire, that he received encouragement. 'It was so simple,' he remembers. 'Yount was the first person to point out that anything I did except writing was going to be vaguely unsatisfying.'

In 1963, Irving enrolled at the Institute of European Studies in Vienna, and he later worked as a university lecturer. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, about a plot to release all the animals from the Vienna Zoo, was followed by The Water-Method Man, a comic tale of a man with a urinary complaint, and The 158-Pound Marriage, which exposes the complications of spouse-swapping. Irving achieved international recognition with The World According to Garp, which he hoped would 'cause a few smiles among the tough-minded and break a few softer hearts'.

The Hotel New Hampshire is a startlingly original family saga, and The Cider House Rules is the story of Doctor Wilbur Larch - saint, obstetrician, founder of an orphanage, ether addict and abortionist - and of his favourite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted. A Prayer for Owen Meany features the most unforgettable character Irving has yet created. A Son of the Circus is an extraordinary evocation of modern day India. John Irving's latest and most ambitious novel is A Widow for One Year.

A collection of John Irving’s shorter writing, Trying to Save Piggy Sneed, was published in 1993. Irving has also written the screenplays for The Cider House Rules and A Son of the Circus, and wrote about his experiences in the world of movies in his memoir My Movie Business.

Irving has had a life-long passion for wrestling, and he plays a wrestling referee in the film of The World According to Garp. In his memoir, The Imaginary Girlfriend, John Irving writes about his life as a wrestler, a novelist and as a wrestling coach. He now writes full-time, has three children and lives in Vermont and Toronto.

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Book Info

Publication date

13th March 1999

Author

John Irving

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Author's Website

john-irving.com/

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Publisher

Black Swan an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd

Format

Paperback
672 pages

Categories

Literary Fiction
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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

ISBN

9780552997966

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