“In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.”
When I began reading this book, I was confused. It featured in at least the top 20 of many lists of ‘100 books to read before you die’, and anyone who knows me knows I love to peruse these lists to ensure I’m reading/have read all of the books I should have (I do this entirely aware that it’s all a marketing ploy, but can’t help myself.)
I was so confused because, although very well written, the first half of the book is – dare I say it – quite mundane. I enjoyed reading about Jenny Fields’ life, she seemed an interesting person, but I found myself wondering when the action or the beauty or the pure, enlightening knowledge would kick in. This didn’t happen. Instead, I found myself growing fond of such a real, deeply flawed character as Garp is. True – at some points in the novel I detested him and his small-mindedness. But, at the same time, I grew more and more impressed with the unflinching depiction of the man. It is easy to imagine this man existing, and so the beauty of the novel is the ability that Irving gives you to step into another’s shoes and live and breath their (many) mistakes and achievements.
Feminism is a theme which runs through the novel and initially I was cross that this was depicted through the eyes of Garp rather than his heroic mother. By the end, I had understood how interesting it was to have feminism seen through the eyes of Garp. Read it – and you will understand.
This is not a quick read, but get to the end and you will be deeply rewarded with a new sense of perspective.