I have just begun reading the Cider House Rules by John Irving and find the experience to be similar to that of reuniting with a third cousin twice removed that I haven’t seen in over 10 years. I knew they existed, and I knew I hung out with them once at a family reunion, but I have no memory otherwise. I saw the movie adaptation in college, my senior year, and yet I seem to have no memory of its finer points other than that the book is centered around the morals of abortion. Have you seen it? I seem to remember you have.
At the time of viewing the film, my views on abortion were much different than they are today. I’m sure that you can recall that I was much more religious in a way that fits the stereotype of Christian Fundamentalist, though in no way extreme. Thus the topic of abortion made me squirm and automatically reject this movie’s morality. But over the years my views have changed quite drastically.
I found going into this first chapter that my expectations were high. In 2014 I read the World According to Garp which is also by John Irving. It was my introduction to Irving and the book ended up being placed on my favorite’s shelf. What stood out to me about the book was how Irving went through literally the entire lives of his characters. It seemed I could expect the same thing from Cider House, and given the size I was inclined to believe that I was correct in my assumptions.
My copy of the book came from a book swapping website and was missing page 5 and 6 but I was fortunate enough to find this excerpt online and then continued with my reading. This is ironic because at the end of 2016 you may remember me telling you about my copy of Anne of Green Gables missing an entire chapter. What is it with the books I own missing pages? It is extremely aggravating!
As I began reading this book, I was instantly reminded of why I stay away from big books; because it takes a hella long time to read each darn page! Each sentence of this book requires so much focus and concentration that I had to retrain my brain slightly. Whenever I daydreamed, I would back up to the place I last comprehended and start over. This only proceeded to make the reading experience take even longer! This left me with less time to watch The Crown on Netflix. But I can’t complain. I know what you are thinking – Danielle, you chose to do this. Do not complain. Indeed I did choose to do this.
But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t utterly enchanted by these first pages. I fell in love with the world Irving set up for the reader. It’s realism and it’s other worldly presence was inspiring. The characters each rang unique and starkly original, and I felt as if I knew them in only a few pages (and a few pages in big book terms in like 10-20 pages of a typical book I find). Sometimes it takes an entire book to give the reader a comprehensive look at a character (and sometimes a book can’t even accomplish this feat at all!) but Irving seems to do it in only a few paragraphs. He creates a history and standpoint for each character in a way that makes them human and more than mere fictional creatures on a page. He gives them life in a way many authors do not do.
I find Homer Wells to be a fascinating protagonist. His experience in St. Cloud’s orphanage and the various families that try, and fail, to adopt him are very heartbreaking and intriguing. I love his love of Charles Dickens. The only books read to the boys at the orphanage is Great Expectations and David Copperfield. In a way, this book may prove to be a modern retelling of those stories as they all revolve around orphan’s finding their place in the world. Homer is very laid back and observant, which can be viewed as a boring protagonist yet I find him so beautiful and rich of a character. He is charming I guess.
And Dr. Larch is interesting. I don’t use that word as it is commonly used to mean boring or dull. He literally is interesting. His views on abortion make my heart swell with pride. Perhaps I feel pride because it feels good to read about a character with such a solid moral conscience. I also love Larch’s observations about orphan’s throughout the text. He says things such as orphan’s appreciate a schedule. I image these observations will continue throughout the book. Fingers crossed.
There is a cold and still feeling to this chapter. The text itself seems to reflect the cold and dismal environment of the orphanage and yet there radiates a feeling of closeness and family and love. It is rather beautiful.
It seems that my notes do not contain a wide amount of detail from here and thus I will end this letter. My fingers feel frozen as I type away. Gosh how I despise winter.
Until next time friend. Danielle.