191 of 196 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2000
It amazes me how Irving can broach topics like adoption, abortion, love, faithfulness, etc. with such empathy and balance. This is the only discussion I've ever encountered of abortion, pro or con, that zeroed in on the core issue, then explored both sides of it in such an enlightening manner. And although abortion is a major theme in this novel, it's not what the book is about--it's just a way of discussing the overall theme--rules. It doesn't matter whether you're liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between. Irving will make you think, and give you a chance to question and refine some of your own views, while at the same time read a very engaging story that provokes and entertains from beginning to end.
107 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2000
This was the first John Irving novel I ever read, back in 1989. I quickly read everything he'd had published, and aside from A Prayer for Owen Meany, this was my favorite. When you read an author's entire catalog in one sitting, you notice their habits and literary devices, and John Irving, while one of my favorite writers, had a tendency to make use of the same images over and over again (dressmaker's dummies, old men with bears and old cars with rusted out floors, etc.). However, Cider House was refreshingly free of those repetitive images, and decidedly different. It skillfully looks at issues ranging from abortion to the conditions of migrant farm workers to fidelity, while all of them are tied together by the single theme of making choices. Every choice made by every character in this novel has repercussions, and it is a mark of the excellent writing that you never feel you're being beaten over the head by the outcomes. I've not seen the movie, so I can't compare it, but if you're looking for a good book, you'll find one here.
153 of 168 people found the following review helpful
You can't evaluate "The Cider House Rules" on the basis of the plot: to say that the book is about an orphan who grows up in an orphanage run by an abortionist, meets a young couple (there for an abortion), leaves with them, and falls in love with the woman, is to miss about 90 percent of what makes the book special.
I've only read one other book by John Irving ("The Hotel New Hampshire"), but it seems to be the case that his novels are so incredibly character-driven. As you read the books, you get the sense that he is so attuned to the people who populate his world that he could write novels centered on any of them.
Now, you are probably aware that the book is somewhat about abortion. Indeed, Irving clearly has a point to make about the pro-choice vs. pro-life debate, and it's pretty clear which side he's on. But at the same time, to say that the book is "about" abortion is like saying that "Casablanca" is about World War 2. Clearly, abortion is inextricably intertwined with the plot and the characters, but the novel is not about abortion; rather, it's about characters who have to make life decisions, including about abortion.
One final note: for better or worse, I tend not to have much patience for "literature." I've read some Dickens, but would never do so for fun. My idea of great literature is "Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson. But . . . I absolutely loved reading "The Cider House Rules" and I was never bored.
81 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2000
I just finished this book last night and can honestly say that I loved every single page. It was so interesting and entertaining to read that I could read twenty pages and not even remember turning one! These are my favorite kinds of novels: ones where you debate whether to spend much of each day reading because you can't wait to see what happens next or whether to slow down because you already know that you'll be sad once the book is through. I'm happy with how long it took me to read this book, but I'm still sad that it is over.
I've never gotten to know the characters in a book the way that Irving allows the reader to know them. I read some reviews on Amazon.com that claimed that the book was not good because the characters were unrealistic-- I whole-heartedly disagree. Even characters that Irving could have gotten away with making one-dimensional were anything but. I think of the stationmaster who lived near St. Clouds and, without giving anything away, I will say that he had some quirks and fears that did seem a little extreme to me in the beginning. However, Irving adds background to ALL of the characters, and invites the reader to understand their traits as they would a friend. In this way, there are no bad guys or good guys in the novel-- everyone is allowed compassion and understanding. Beyond creating an interesting story, this shows that everyone that one encounters in their life has an important story behind who they are.
John Irving also weaves different issues into The Cider House Rules: abortion, friendship, family, love (especially the importance of love to a child and to a partner). And, in addition to weaving these themes and issues into the story, Irving always has different sub plots going on in different settings.
I can't say enough about this book-- It is rare that I read a novel that makes me laugh to myself or even tear a little at certain parts (I hate when people say 'I laughed out loud! I cried!' because that doesn't really happen, does it? I miss reading The Cider House Rules and I miss the characters that I got to know like good friends. If I were to see Homer Wells again, I would say to him (like an old friend) 'Homer, I missed you' to which he would reply, 'Right,' because that's what he always says. I know, because we're friends.
Read The Cider House Rules-- John Irving has now become my favorite author. I love him so much that I just went to a nearby used bookstore and bought six more of his books. Next on my list is The World According to Garp... I can't wait.
68 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2000
John Irving, for my money, is one of the top two or three American storytellers of our time. Like Dickens, his literary hero, Irving is always concerned with his readers' well-being. His novels range from the sublime (The World According to Garp) to the mediocre (The 158-Pound Marriage), but even the weakest are entertaining.
The Cider House Rules falls beneath sublime but well above mediocre. The characters are engaging (it would be a mean reader indeed who did not root for the protagonist, Homer Wells) and the plot meanders about pleasantly. Sometimes the tearful moments seem too easy-- nobody can stay dry-eyed when a cute little orphan keels over-- but the book bravely explores the complexities of love and abortion without preaching for any particular side.
It's a good book but if you're looking for vintage Irving, head for the classics: The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire. Or track down my personal favorite, The Water-Method Man, which remains to this day the funniest book I've ever read (with the possible exception of J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man).
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2000
This is one of those books that you don't want to stop reading. I would be falling asleep at 4:30AM and still finding myself reading on into the next chapter. After you do finish it (its 500+ pages flew by in 3 days), you find yourself missing it and wishing you had drawn out the pleasure of reading such an excellent novel. The characters, both "good" and "bad" step right off the page and into your heart. The ending, although a bit predictable, is exactly how you secretly want it to end. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes stories about people. Action-packed it may not be, although the story never lags. The real beauty is in the characters and Irving's colorful descriptions of their lives and relationships. I can't wait to see the movie, although I'm sure it will disappoint after this incredible book.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 1999
Last night I stayed up until 4:30 finishing the epic John Irving novel, "The Cider House Rules." When you read a John Irving novel, you hold life in your hands. When I finished the book, last night, I held something dead---the story was over, and the characters that I had gone through so much with, would no longer experience something new. I would contend that John Irving creates more realistic characters than any other novelist I've read; so much so, that I will remember these characters (and the characters from "Garp") as if I were remembering real people.
Often, when I finish a book, I question what it has done for me. The problem I had with Thomas Harris' "Red Dragon" (which I read before this), is that although the storytelling was brilliant, it left me feeling cold and disturbed. "Cider House" and "Garp" left me feeling full, and excited about life, and aware of the framework that exists in the world. John Irving so often pulls back from his characters, telling you how they die or how they were born, that you often feel the impulse to view your own life that way. You too will have an ending. But before you do, I strongly suggest that you read a John Irving novel. Either "The World According to Garp," "The Cider House Rules," or (the Irving book I will read next) "A Prayer For Owen Meany" (which many contend is his best).
I loved "The Cider House Rules," and I'm sad that it's over. I might even say that "Cider House" will stay with me for a long time, to which Homer Wells might reply: "right."
38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2000
I recently went with a friend of mine to see this movie in the theatre. At the time I knew basically nothing about the movie but decided to tag along with her anyway. I really enjoyed the movie and when I found out that it was based on a book I purchased it immediately. This was my first case of seeing a movie and then reading the book. Normally I do this the other way around and feel dissapointed. This book had me mesmerized. I carried it with me everywhere in case there was a spare moment where I might be able to read just a little bit more. The movie's depiction of the character Candy didn't do her justice. I was irritated with her during the film but loved her in the book. Anyone who has seen this movie but not yet read the book must do so. The book is so exciting because having seen the movie, you think you know what will happen but you really dont! There are many wonderful surprises. I now almost wish I hadn't devoured the book so quickly because I miss it. Savor this one.
121 of 149 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2000
If I had to write down just one phrase,describing John Irving's writing, it would have to be: he's a first rate story-teller. "The cider house rules" is the third book of his that I read, after "The world according to Garp" & "A prayer for Owen Meany". The opinion that I've formed so far, that Irving is a superb writer, hasn't changed. However, there were both good and less than good things about "The Cider house rules" which is the reason for the 3 star rating.
First of all, John Irving has a gift when it comes to character development: he consistently describes interesting, different, strange, very original people: and he does this in such a subtle and sensitive way, that after finishing each of his books, you have the feeling you know each and every character very well. This is one of the good points of the cider house rules: Homer Wells, Melony, Dr Larch are all unique and interesting chararters...but after having read other John Irving books, the reader has come to expect characters like these, so it doesn't come so much as a surprise.
I also liked the handling of the abortion issue: John Irving doesn't preach, he gives both sides of the story, and helps us realise how nothing is ever black or white. However, by the end of the book, his own opinion is clearly stated, but not in a "bossy" way...
What I didn't like about the book was that first, I thought it was very slow paced and at times boring, especially after "Prayer for Owen Meany" which is much funnier & never boring. Also, I thought the end was totally predictable: you could tell, almost from the beginning what the conclusion would be. Finally, I was a little bit disappointed by some of the choices the characters made: John Irving built up an almost hero-like character (Homer Wells), a strong, talented & intelligent person...but he compromised on many levels, especially when it came to his personal life.
Having said all this: I would still whole-heartedly recommend Cider House Rules, but I don't think it's one of the best novels by John Irving. I still haven't seen the movie & I look forward to watching Michael Caine play the part of Dr Larch.
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2000
This book kept me up until 5:00 in the morning and left me teary-eyed. I LOVED this book! I read 'Garp' more than 15 years ago and always considered it one of my favorite works of fiction. I have been in something of a literary coma of late and I have been reading mostly non-fiction (too many years in 'gradual' school). 'Cider House' has reawakened me, and has inspired me to read more works by Irving. I was deeply moved by the relationship between Dr. Larch and Homer in particular. None of the relationships in this book are easy to define. You won't find your typical father, son, or lover here. That's what makes this book so compelling. Similarly the issues raised are not so easily categorized as black or white, abortion being the most obvious one here. The point is not so much whether you are pro-this or anti-that, rather the danger (or futility) arises when you try to impose your beliefs, morals, or definitions on others. This book makes a compelling case against our all too human tendency to do so.
This book is anything but boring. And it pays homage to our beloved New England. What could be wrong about that?