I have been a John Irving fan for over twenty years, so I was looking forward to the publication of Last Night in Twisted River and pre-ordered it for delivery on its UK publication date back in November. Having been a little disappointed with his last novel, Until I Find You, which I found rather repetitive and about three hundred pages too long, I was hoping to find Irving back on form with this latest offering.
What Irving does really well is scale. His novels all take place on an epic scale, not only in terms of geography and time, but they are novels where big things happen and they are novels about big stuff. Although his writing is distinctly American, he is a novelist more in the tradition of Dickens than anyone else, an influence that is acknowledged in Last Night In Twisted River with repeated references to Great Expectations, which has clearly shaped the novel. All the usual characteristics of an Irving novel are also to be found here – aspects of autobiography (or, more accurately, Irving uses his own life for narrative ideas and episodes); extraordinary events, often with tragic consequences, emerging out of small actions and individuals making the wrong split-second decisions. Like Dickens, Irving is superb at describing landscape and endowing it with a narrative quality of its own.
Glad to say that Last Night in Twisted River is Irving back on form.