|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 606 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Start date: July 2010
Finished date: July 2010
Where from: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: From TBR list; the unusual title captivated me
Summary: Novelist T.S. Garp, the son of a feminist icon, struggles to step away from her shadow to bring out his own fading talents, finding material from the tragic, bizarre, and odd, incredible encounters of his life.
It is rare to find a novel so complete without being rushed and without leaving any plot strings unraveled, with every character given finality in either death or a footnote of their current circumstances. Garp’s conception is criminal, his childhood adventurous, and his future bright with early potential as a writer from the imaginative short story "The Pension Grillparzer" and his talent as an amateur wrestler.
What hinders his progress is his relationships: Garp remains at odds with his mother, nurse turned feminist icon Jenny Fields, whose cult following after the publication of her memoir gives her a destiny to protect & harbour disenfranchised women, including those that cause their own misery as “Ellen Jamisons,” who cut out their tongues in protest for the rape of a girl by that name. His marriage to the meek, bookish teacher Helen is marred by affairs that lead to unspeakable tragedy that convinces Garp lust is the bane of tragedy & misfortune retold in a pitiful novel, The World According to Bensenhaver.
But equaling its tragedies are the comic underpinnings such as Garp’s friendship with Roberta, a transvestite ex-football player, his antagonistic relationship with the neighbouring Steering family & their dog, Bonkie, and his secret pining for Alice, the lisping wife of a friend & colleague.
It takes getting used to the nutty encounters & shell-shocked existence Garp seems to lead, but I soon eased into it and became mesmerized by the supporting characters that crop up over the years of his life and either sustain a place in his heart or wither off entirely, only to be caricatured in his writing.
The novel is often overlooked when choosing a “perfect” novel, but I wouldn’t hesitate to give it the honour. It is creatively offbeat, masterfully structured, and, by its end, comes full circle in producing a multidimensional life story that is littered with delightful, if oddball, characters in a thoughtful study of “terminal cases.”
I haven't yet seen the movie version, but I heard it was decent.
Rank: (A+)- A must-read!