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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Last Night in Twisted River

John Irving

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | review and reception notes | links | about the author

To purchase Last Night in Twisted River

Title: Last Night in Twisted River
Author: John Irving
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009
Length: 576 pages
Availability: Last Night in Twisted River - US
Last Night in Twisted River - UK
Last Night in Twisted River - Canada
Last Night in Twisted River - India
Dernière nuit à Twisted River - France
Letzte Nacht in Twisted River - Deutschland
Ultima notte a Twisted River - Italia
La última noche en Twister River - España

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Haven't gotten a copy yet

Chances that we will review it:

Will probably get to it eventually

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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Christian Science Monitor . 6/11/2009 Yvonne Zipp
Entertainment Weekly A- 20/10/2009 Rick Tetzeli
Financial Times A+ 19/10/2009 Irvine Welsh
The Guardian . 24/10/2009 Giles Foden
Independent on Sunday . 1/11/2009 Simmy Richman
The LA Times A 25/10/2009 Daniel Mallory
New Statesman . 15/10/2009 Nina Caplan
The NY Times B 27/10/2009 Michiko Kakutani
The NY Times Book Rev. . 8/11/2009 Joanna Scott
The New Yorker . 16/11/2009 .
The Observer . 1/11/2009 Stephanie Merritt
San Francisco Chronicle . 8/11/2009 Michael Berry
Sunday Times . 18/10/2009 Stephen Amidon
The Telegraph . 16/11/2009 Lucy Daniel
The Times . 16/10/2009 Helen Rumbelow
USA Today . 27/10/2009 Everett Irving
The Washington Post C 28/10/2009 Ron Charles

  Review Consensus:

  Generally favorable, but find it uneven

  From the Reviews:
  • "I thought I was heading for another The Cider House Rules, my personal favorite of his novels. But the full reading experience ended up being more like A Widow for One Year, where one outstanding section has to carry the weight of the whole book. And at 554 pages, that’s a lot to carry." - Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor

  • "This structure means that it takes a while to fall wholly for Last Night in Twisted River, but if you're a fan of ambitious, chaotic, plot- and character-driven storytelling, you'll love this book." - Rick Tetzeli, Entertainment Weekly

  • "Irving is a master at interweaving lives to build up dramatic events, which then explode across the pages of the novel. The book is rich in detail, yet never less than a page-turner. While the characters’ frailties are exposed, their humanity is preserved, so we never stop caring for them. (...) Last Night in Twisted River is a novel of excellence. This big-hearted, brilliantly written and superbly realised inter-generational tale of a father and son on the lam, and their flawed protector, stands comparison with the very best of Irving’s previous work. It is absolutely unmissable." - Irvine Welsh, Financial Times

  • "Spreading like the canopy of a tree, the historical and geographical breadth of this story is a growing surprise. You think you are in a backwoods melodrama then suddenly the fall of the twin towers is being described, with commentary from Six-Pack Pam. This defamiliarising effect is a formal expression of Irving's theme of mistaken expectation: it's an accidental world, we should beware anticipations of who we are -- avoid above all else the idea of manifest destiny." - Giles Foden, The Guardian

  • "(T)he most poetic and powerful of Irving's work to date. (...) Though the book is too subtle and gentle to trumpet itself as Irving's Great American Novel, the story of Dominic and Daniel, as they leave their past behind (we next catch up with them in Boston in 1967), is none the less the story of the United States itself." - Simmy Richman, Independent on Sunday

  • "Majestic yet intimate, shot with whimsy, dread and molten pathos, Twisted River compresses the panoramic scope of his midcareer legacy without diluting its brio. This isn't a comeback so much as a coming-of-age: Irving's first novel to reconfigure those Irving-esque devices -- the doomed naif, the artist in bloom, the sweet, bitter tug-of-war between duty and destiny -- into a tale as introspective as it is retrospective. It's simultaneously every story he's ever published and something altogether new." - Daniel Mallory, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Irving's fluency is astonishing. He renders incidental detail riveting and extraneous explanations -- of which there are many -- absorbing. (...) This manipulation should be irritating, but every place and time he takes us to is so full of intriguing stories, musings and events that -- like the Baciagalupos -- the reader longs to take up residence, put down roots and try her best to hang around for a while. (...) This book, with its chain of violence, can be viewed as a glum comment both on Americans' love affair with guns and, more broadly, on their country's determination to bludgeon other nations into doing its bidding." - Nina Caplan, New Statesman

  • "Last Night in Twisted River showcases all of John Irving’s biggest liabilities as a writer: a tricked-up, gimmicky plot; cartoony characters; absurd contrivances; cheesy sentimentality; and a thoroughly preposterous ending. And yet, at the same time, it evolves into a deeply felt and often moving story (.....) Last Night in Twisted River emerges not just as a tall tale, but also as an entertaining, if messy and long-winded, commentary on the fiction-making process itself." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

  • "Given Irving’s skill, it’s especially frustrating to see him working so hard to spell out the import of the fiction. Even if some of the explanations are meant to be inflected with irony (we shouldn’t necessarily believe everything this narrator tells us), they still aren’t convincingly integrated with the events and characters. The coy hints of connections between the author and the narrator have been forced onto a plot that can’t accommodate them, and the fact that Danny is a famous novelist too often seems a mere contrivance, giving Irving a convenient opportunity to include rambling background information and to air his own ideas about writing." - Joanna Scott, The New York Times Book Review

  • "At times, Irving’s skill as storyteller is impressive, but the book is marred by too much sentimental sprawl, and too many metafictional winks and precious plot twists." - The New Yorker

  • "(T)he sheer exuberance of detail -- reminiscent of the 19th-century novels Irving admires -- at times threatens to overwhelm the story. But for the most part, Last Night in Twisted River is a big, old-fashioned novel in the best sense; Irving has created in painstaking, loving detail a whole and complete world, a record of momentous social changes, but, above all a testament to the enduring power of love and fiction." - Stephanie Merritt, The Observer

  • "This is probably his most controlled novel since A Widow for One Year, a sprawling epic that covers 50 years and a wide range of settings, yet manages to cohere into a satisfying tale of loss and redemption. (...) Irving does, however, indulge some of his least attractive habits in Last Night in Twisted River (.....) Last Night in Twisted River is a marvel, and his admirers can be glad he wasn't deterred from its completion." - Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Although it never quite achieves the narrative frenzy that made Irving famous in The World According to Garp, his fans will not be disappointed, especially when stacking the book against its anaemic competition. (...) Last Night in Twisted River is at its best in its depiction of the long, meandering course a life can take." - Stephen Amidon, Sunday Times

  • "Moralistic, perverse, funny and uplifting, it’s as if he’s constructed the ideal John Irving novel to satisfy every Irving geek, this reader included." - Lucy Daniel, The Telegraph

  • "Because of Irving’s gift for story, we have overlooked his postmodern tricksiness. He almost rivals Paul Auster for the mischievous way he inserts a thinly fictionalised version of himself into the tale. As in most of Irving’s books, the writer-character matches Irving’s real career. But this time the literary lessons of this character are much more categorically expressed. (...) Of course, I enjoyed much of Last Night in Twisted River; it is Irving, after all." - Helen Rumbelow, The Times

  • "John Irving packs a lot -- too much at times -- into his 12th novel. But if you like sprawling family stories with sexual complications, memorable characters and reflections on writing, then Last Night in Twisted River is for you." - Everett Irving, USA Today

  • "It's like signing on for a week's vacation after a great first date only to discover that now you're trapped in a small hotel room. For. Seven. Long. Days. But, oh, this first section is a marvel, a rich and evocative story -- think of it as a $28 novella. (...) But most problematic of all is the book's wearisome focus on Danny's career as a world-famous novelist, like, say, John Irving. (...) Ironically, the novel only soars when we read the parts that Danny has supposedly written (.....) The Last Night at Twisted River is like some kind of postmodern tragedy: Danny Baciagalupo's marvelous novel is smothered inside John Irving's dull one. If only somebody could have helped it get out and breathe. " - Ron Charles, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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Notes about the Reviews
and the Book's Reception

       Early reactions have been very positive, as most consider it his best work in years, and like the way in which Irving is up to his usual tricks here.

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Last Night in Twisted River: Reviews: John Irving: Other books by John Irving under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary American fiction under review

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About the Author:

       John Winslow Irving, American author, born 1942. Born in Exeter, New Hampshire he graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy. Author of numerous very successful novels, he first achieved widespread recognition with The World according to Garp.

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© 2009-2022 the complete review

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