In One Person by John Irving
Beginning in the 1950s and continuing to the present day, In One Person is a story told in retrospect about a young man at a New England Prep-School who falls in love with a transvestite teacher. Inspired by the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, the novel touches on themes of sexuality, tolerance, heartbreak and loss.
Reviewer: Steven Hayward
"This is a novel that reaffirms the centrality of Irving as the voice of social justice and compassion in contemporary American literature. His work has been indispensible over the past four decades, and it will prove more important, more urgently resonant and more prescient, in the decades to come."
Reviewer: Todd VanDerWerff
"The first two-thirds are full of humor and warmth...They’re also packed with terrific characters, and the sort of sprawling, picaresque plot structure only Irving seems to be attempting any more in the world of literary fiction....And the novel’s last 150 pages are as good as anything Irving’s ever written..."
Reviewer: Steven Poole
"The term "tragicomedy" tends to be rather loosely applied nowadays to anything that's a bit funny and a bit sad; In One Person deserves it more than most....If a novel were simply a plea for understanding of sexual difference, it would be bad art; this book is elevated beyond the merely political by, among other things, the ebullient voice of its narrator."
Reviewer: Tim Adams
"His novel is many things – a little slice of cruel history precisely told, a kind of back-to-front mystery in which veils of deception and self-deception are lifted one by one, a sort of love story in which love rarely travels in the directions you imagined. Most of all, though, it is another of this writer's bold hymns to individuality, to the great American quest of self-discovery...."
Reviewer: Michael Berry
""In One Person" will reward Irving's longtime readers and gain him new ones. In the end, it proves far more unpredictable than expected, just as love, desire and sexuality do to its beguiled narrator."
Reviewer: Jeanette Winterson
"Ah well. You can’t have everything in one book. “In One Person” gives a lot. It’s funny, as you would expect. It’s risky in what it exposes."
Reviewer: James Walton
"In One Person remains a big, entertaining and unstintingly generous read, bulging with incident and able to make every member of its large cast entirely memorable. Even so, Bill Abbott ultimately proves better at discussing Irving’s themes than at embodying them."
Reviewer: Ron Charles
"When Billy matures and moves away from the Favorite River Academy, the story grows more melancholy and, frankly, loses some of its drive, too....Even more problematic is the way the plot’s structure fades...No matter what its flaws, there’s a talent at work in this brave new novel that — as Prospero said — “frees all faults.”"
Reviewer: Charles Baxter
"The book is very entertaining and relies on verbal showmanship even when the events narrated are grim, a tonal incongruity characteristic of this author....But in a story about erotic connections, you keep waiting for Bill Abbott to love somebody who is not a projection of his own needs."
Reviewer: Peter Parker
"There is a generosity of spirit here reminiscent of Robertson Davies, but there is also something of the Canadian writer’s bagginess in the prose, a genially lumbering quality to the book and its comedy where what one really needs is nimbleness and wit....Even so, In One Person is boldly conceived and energetically executed."
Reviewer: Janet Maslin
"What’s impressive about “In One Person” is its open fascination with bisexuality, cross-dressing, the politics of gender bending and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. What’s detrimental is the broad fancifulness of the clowning."
Reviewer: David L. Ulin
"That is — or should be — a good thing, a writer revisiting his material from a different angle, turning (or re-turning) it over and over, seeing it through a fresh lens. But "In One Person" never delivers on that sense of freshness, settling for a posture of contrivance instead."
Reviewer: Sam Sacks
"There is something amiss in a novel if it is most interesting when addressing real-world subjects such as the AIDS epidemic but loses the reader when the writer's imagination takes over."