vrijdag 11 juli 2014

John Irving: Setting Free the Bears


This is John Irving’s first novel and it was published in 1968. Because I own The World According to Garp in Dutch (and I want them all the same) I bought this one in Dutch too from bol.com and it has 438 pages.

Graff, an Austrian college student, and Siggy, a motorcycle mechanic and enthusiast, become friends and decide to embark on a motorcycle tour of Austria. While traveling they meet Gallen with whom they both have a very bizarre relationship. In the second part of the book we learn more about Siggy’s philosophical part, his ideas and about his family’s history pre-WWII to the 1960’s. When Siggy is killed in an accident, Graff decides to continue their initial plan to free the animals of the Vienna Zoo.

I loved the second part of the novel. The family history is fascinating because it is unconventional and marked by the world and the time they live in. Through the notebook we get to know Siggy. We learn why he is obsessed with the Vienna Zoo and why is the slightly crazy person he is today. 
However, I really didn’t like Gaff. There is no depth to him and I didn’t understand his whole relationship with Gallen, why he does the things he does and says the things he says.
As a post-WWII generation book, I enjoyed it. Siggy and Graff are defined by nothing, unlike their parents who were defined by the war. All that matters is how their families were impacted by the war. They try to figure out more about what happened to the people during the war but most of their questions are left unanswered.

The first part I hated, I had to struggle to get to the second part. As a rule I read 100 pages and if I don’t like a novel by then I put it aside. I was ready to put it down but for my uncle who loves Irving. And I’m glad I did finish it because I loved the second part. The third part was disturbing and even creepy at times perhaps partly because I felt no connection to Graff and Gallen whatsoever.
Well I must say I have mixed feelings about this novel.
Did you like it?

Happy reading.

Time for a break!