A Son of the Circus

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The protagonist of this addition to the Irving canon is a middle-aged orthopedic surgeon living in Toronto named Farrokh Daruwalla. Quite obviously, Dr. Daruwalla is not representative of majority Canadian population in that his ethnic origin is neither French, British, nor Native American. Daruwalla was born and reared in Bombay until he left India for school. In Vienna, he received his university and medical school training before courting and marrying his wife. Having spent close to a decade outside India, Daruwalla moved to Toronto and, with his German-born wife, sought Canadian citizenship. This is not to say that the good doctor abandoned all contact with his native land. Although he returns to India on a semiregular basis, Dr. Daruwalla questions his identity as either a Canadian or an Indian living abroad.

If Daruwalla believes himself a stranger in any land, such is no less the case with the likes of John Dhar, Martin Mills, and Rahul Promila. John Dhar is more than simply a long time family friend; he is, largely because of Daruwalla, the most popular and the most hated individual in Bombay. Martin Mills, possessed of a host of psychological maladies, is unaware that he is Dhar’s identical twin. On the other hand, Rahul Promila is the embodiment of evil and lives up to that assessment with a vengeance.

Those who appreciate Irving’s work are in for a delightful surprise. His use of the well-turned phrase and the apt if unexpected description remain unaltered, but never before has the narrative so resembled a double helix inserted inside a maze. Newcomers to Irving’s fiction are best advised to begin with an earlier work before attempting A SON OF THE CIRCUS.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Tribune. September 4, 1994, XIV, p. 1.

Library Journal. CXIX, September 15, 1994, p. 91.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. September 4, 1994, p. 1.

New Statesman and Society. VII, September 23, 1994, p. 40.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, September 4, 1994, p. 1.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, July 4, 1994, p. 51.

Time. CXLIV, September 12, 1994, p. 82.

The Times Literary Supplement. September 2, 1994, p. 11.

The Wall Street Journal. September 15, 1994, p. A12.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIV, September 4, 1994, p. 5.