TCL’s #DNF Friday #6 – When John Irving Lost Me.

Why I can’t write a Book Review for “Until I find You” by John Irving.

Goodreads Summary: Every major character in Until I Find You has been marked for life – not only William Burns, a church organist who is addicted to being tattooed, but also William’s song, Jack, an actor who is shaped as a child by his relationships with older women. And Jack’s mother, Alice – a Toronto tattoo artist – has been permanently damaged by William’s rejection of her. This is a novel about the loss of innocence, on many levels.”

Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction; Settings: Contemporary; USA, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands (among other places); Other Categories: Novel.

Until I Find You DNF

This is one of those books that, I believe, was released under duress by publisher who felt they were at the mercy of the writer. Meaning, I totally believe that after so many truly successful novels, and despite a spate of a few less than hugely successful ones, the publisher was afraid to edit anything that the author had put down, fearing that they might turn genius into garbage. Sadly, I feel they did the opposite in this case. I’m certain that had the editor ridden a bit of roughshod over this book, and cut it down by at least half, it might have been amazing.

Think about it… this book comes in at well over 800 pages, and yet the summary is a mere 74 words, including the title of the book. See? Not even the publicist knew what this book was about, when they put this summary up on Goodreads. So, why did they expect any of this book’s readers to be any the wiser? Admittedly, Irving is well known for his meandering style, and his endless tangents. That was part of his charm, back when he was new on the literary scene. However, when it came to this book, he took his penchant for rambling to its penultimate, and created a true masterpiece of utterly boring confusion. With one digression after another, Irving zigzags and weaves among topics with such consistent frequency that you might find yourself going back several, if not dozens, of pages to figure out where the whole episode began. On Amazon the summary actually says “Too much happens in this expansive, eventful novel to possibly summarize it all.” Well, DUH!

Now don’t get me wrong; I still believe Irving wrote some amazing novels. His “A Prayer for Owen Meany” is still one of my all-time favorite books, and I’ll quote you from his “Cider House Rules” or “Hotel New Hampshire” at the drop of a hat. Although I felt that his “Son of the Circus” was a very strange and uncomfortable book to read, I didn’t mind his subsequent novel “The Fourth Hand,” and “A Widow for One Year” wasn’t that bad, either. Then, I got hold of this book and well… I’m sorry… Irving lost a fan in me with this novel. It wasn’t the quality of the writing, which I still enjoyed; it was the fact that I felt like I was in one of those intricate labyrinths, that are designed to never let those who enter, to ever exit, and forever wander, trapped among the various plots and stories.

One reviewer said this book has all “… the classic Irving tropes … (wrestling, prostitutes, New Hampshire, older women, people of small stature), but all are deployed in an absolutely forced, joyless, airless manner.” Well, I couldn’t have said it better; that’s exactly why I gave up reading this book (after truly giving it a fighting chance for nearly 200 pages). I’m sure others will adore it, but I cannot recommend this novel, and I think I’m being very generous by giving it a full, single star out of five (instead of half a star, or none at all)!

star Small

Until I Find You other DNFIf I haven’t convinced you not to read this novel, this book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository UK and US (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and US, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website, BooksAMillion, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you.


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14 thoughts on “TCL’s #DNF Friday #6 – When John Irving Lost Me.

  1. I read a great deal of Irving in my undergrad days as a twenty-something woman, then when I became a grad student at the age of 40 (after 20 years teaching in public schools), I rediscovered this fascinating author. Like you, A Prayer for Owen Meany was one of my favorites, but it was for a very personal reason. I heard him read at a large session at University of Houston. He was supposed to be reading for one of his recently published novels, but instead, he put down one book and took up a sheaf of typed papers, and said, “I want to read the opening from a work in progress. I’d be interested in your response.” He began to read the scene where the mother was beaned by a baseball and killed…the audience was silent. We didn’t know if it was ok to laugh or what…what we did was sit there shocked, and then he said hmmmm, wrote a few notes on the sheets, and put it away and read from whatever the “advertised” novel was for the reading. I was hooked on author’s “readings” from that moment on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. I mean, the longest book I’ve read this year is about 600 pages (The Rose Code by Kate Quinn), and it was so good, it felt like it was only 200. I’m reading Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land now, and it is also over 600 pages – I’m struggling with some of the subject matter, but the writing is so lovely, I can’t stop. But at least he sticks to the point!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Like I posted on FB: deliriously wonderful to read a review of an Irving book that does not include the word “Garp” in it. So subversive you are, Davida. And on top of that you fully convinced me. I love writing long sentences, but I just have a lot of trouble these days sticking with long novels.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Have I ever told you how much I love your reviews! A brilliant review of a book I never want to read! Sadly, I think popular authors can get to a point where they are untouchable by editors.

    Liked by 2 people

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