You can now read 10 articles in a month for free on Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

The Boston Globe


Book Review

‘In One Person’ by John Irving

“In One Person” has many of the things that one expects from a John Irving novel: It is set, mostly, in northern New England (in the fictional town of First Sister, Vt.); its protagonist is a novelist (as was true in 1978’s “The World According to Garp” — a book I loved, and the book “In One Person” most closely resembles in its themes, if not always in prose style). There are no bears, but there are wrestlers and a prep school. German is taught and spoken, and Austria is visited. There are big questions about the narrator and novelist Billy Abbot’s father, who has been more or less absent since Billy’s birth. There’s lots of sexual awakening and questioning and questing, lots of gender bending, lots of sex.

I know this list sounds dismissive, but I don’t mean it to be. Sometimes Irving seems haunted by his obsessions, and sometimes he seems merely fond of them, but in any case, they clearly matter to him. These obsessions might be familiar to devoted (or even casual) Irving readers, but that does not necessarily mean they are tired.

Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week