This is not my first John Irving book and it definitely won’t be my last! I am in awe of Irving’s ability to weave these complex narratives with characters whose depth simply overflows the pages of the text. This book was no exception.
Meet Jack Burns. Jack is raised by his mother, Alice, a tattoo artist. Jack’s recollections of his childhood are filled with a glowing appreciation of his mother and her quirkiness. What he doesn’t realise until later is that she has facilitated a lie and everything Jack thinks he knows about his absent father is false.
This is the root of the story which unfolds. However, what is most appealing about this book is characters and their neuroses – Jack, Alice, Jack’s friend Emma, Alice’s partner and all the other people who participate in the telling of this tale.
It wasn’t a quick read but it’s one that I am glad I completed.
The experience of reading this book was like taking a swim in a divine pool of rich and vivid images that glossed over one’s imagination like fine bolts of high quality silk. I literally drowned in the magnificence of the 1001 Nights atmosphere of Our Weddings. I had to read it slowly. Very slowly because it had this strange effect of leaving me feeling as though I had consumed too much alcohol. Not something I’ve ever experienced in a book before!
I’ve never read anything by Rabinyan before but her Sephardi heritage is so evident in her books that her words ring with the clang of jewellery and bedecked women. I could almost hear the cat fights and the screeching from roof tops as women haggled about small details, about village life, about each other.
It was this that most fascinated me about the book: the focus on women in this particular small-village setting. I think it was this element that gave this book its richness, leaving readers feeling as though they are drowning in an oestrogen festival.
This book isn’t for everyone. I expect that many will find it self-indulgent and too voluptuous; but I loved it.