|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Pages: 598 (with Author's Notes)
Genre: Literary Fiction
Start Date: Mar. 26, 2011
Finished Date: Apr. 15, 2011 (21 days)
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: On my TBR list and I love John Irving's work
Summary: A naive orphan raised by a doctor who performs abortions fights against assumptions that he will carry on the doctor's practice, instead working in a cider mill where he falls in love with the fiancee of his boss's son.
It's no secret that I've been a big admirer of John Irving, having read & reviewed The World According to Garp and A Prayer For Owen Meany. Garp remains my favourite but Meany was just as fascinating. With The Cider House Rules, I expected a similar quirkiness in the characters within a family saga type of structure. There certainly were a number of creative figures at the Maine orphanage that feels like a modernized gothic setting with its nods to Dickens and Jane Eyre. I was instantly taken with the backstory of Dr. Wilbur Larch and his loyal nurses with their oppositional personalities. As for their charges, Melony was the strongest, and probably the most interesting character. Her story could have been a novel in itself. But when Homer grows into an adult and moves away from St. Cloud's, the plot takes a considerable drop and slogs through mostly inevitable events until a very busy climax takes place.
Candy and Wally are likeable characters, and their friendship with Homer, as well as the cider mill workers and all their complexities is interesting but I kept wanting to see more of the orphanage and more of Melony's story. In short, I got bored with the cider house. Without spoiling the story, a whirlwind of activity in the book occurs, including some deaths and some life-changing moments, seemingly happening all at once, and after that point, things look up and I actually finished the book liking it. What was missing for me was a certain spark that the Garp and Meany books had. Homer, the main character, needed more of an edge but instead he was purposely dull and empty, leaving the supporting characters to have all the unique qualities expected of an Irving novel.
As for the subject matter, which I will not discuss as I feel socio-political topics such as these are controversial and difficult to address without offending anyone's beliefs and is not the point of reviewing this book in the first place, it was quite powerful. No angle on the issue went unrepresented. It was a brilliant way to broach the subject on Irving's part, leaving no room for accusing Irving of being on any one "side".
I would recommend the book, though I wouldn't consider it a high priority read. If you are new to John Irving, I would definitely suggest you try Garp or Meany first. In general, The Cider House Rules can be difficult to plow through but the end is (mostly) worth the journey.
Rank: (B)- Very Good, Recommend