Books: An Orphan Or an Abortion: The Cider House Rules

by John Irving; Morrow; 560 pages; $18.95

Although he appears in name only, Charles Dickens is one of the undisputed heroes of John Irving's sixth novel. This homage seems both fitting and inevitable. The phenomenal success of The World According to Garp (1978) vindicated Irving's belief that what Dickens knew in the 19th century still holds true: a serious novel with an irresistible plot and vivid characters will not go begging for readers. The Hotel New Hampshire (1981), though lighter and frothier than Garp in most respects, offered a gallery of Dickensian eccentrics. But the author of such novels as Oliver Twist and Hard Times had more than...

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