Skip to main content

Review: Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving

Spanning the course of over fifty years, Last Night in Twisted River is the story of Danny Baciagalpo/Angel, the son of a logging camp cook. One evening, he and his father are forced to flee Twisted River, and they spend pretty much the rest of their lives on the run from a crazy and (as it turns out) a not-so-dumb sheriff. The novel takes us from New England in the ‘50s, to Iowa in the ‘60s, then to New England again, and Toronto in 2005.

The quirky plot and characters are pure John Irving. There’s a lot here that he’s visited before (there are the ghosts of boarding schools, bears, and wrestlers in Last Night in Twisted River), but Irving delves into new territory with his latest novel. I’ve always thought of John Irving’s books are being somewhat autobiographical—with embellishments. Danny Angel is a famous author; the plot of one of his novels even sounds suspiciously like parts of The Cider House Rules. As Irving says:

“In the media, real life was more important than fiction; those elements of a novel that were, at least, based on personal experience were of more interest to the general public than those pieces of the novel-writing process that were ‘merely’ made up. In any piece of fiction, weren’t those things that had really happened to the writer—or, perhaps, to someone the writer had intimately know—more authentic , more verifiably true, than anything that anyone could imagine?”

True, but John Irving’s novels, even the parts that are purely made up, are always interesting—so maybe the converse is true as well? Maybe pure fantasy can also be entirely believable?

True, the sex parts of the novel can be a bit off-putting (Irving seems a bit obsessed with the idea of overweight people having sex; Danny has a thing for one of Dominic’s girlfriends). Dominic and Danny’s girlfriends never really emerge out of one dimension (maybe because they don’t ever stay around all that long in the first place). The novel does jump around in time, which can be confusing in some places (especially when it comes to differentiating between what’s happening in the present and what’s being remembered by one or more of the characters. Still, I enjoyed this quirky, offbeat novel. Irving’s novels are always a pleasure to read, and this one is no exception.

Also reviewed by: Book Chase


Sounds like Irving has gone back to his roots with this one. Looking forward to reading it.
Kathleen said…
I've never read anything of Irving's...hard to believe, I know! There's been quite a bit of press about this one and based on your review it might be a good one for me to try!
Wendy said…
Glad to see you enjoyed this one! I loved it, but I am also a fanatical Irving fan :)
S. Krishna said…
I definitely want to read this one. Thanks for the review.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…