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Ingenious Pain [Paperback]

Andrew Miller
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 Aug 1997
At the dawn of the Enlightenment, James Dyer is born unable to feel pain. A source of wonder and scientific curiosity as a child, he rises through the ranks of Georgian society to become a brilliant surgeon. Yet as a human being he fails, for he can no more feel love and compassion than pain. Until, en route to St Petersburg to inoculate the Empress Catherine against smallpox, he meets his nemesis and saviour.

Product details

  • Paperback: 337 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; Export ed edition (21 Aug 1997)
  • ISBN-10: 0340707348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340707340
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 11 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,411,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Miller was born in Bristol in 1960. He has lived in Spain, Japan, Ireland and France, and currently lives in Somerset. His first novel, INGENIOUS PAIN, was published by Sceptre in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Grinzane Cavour prize in Italy. He has since written five novels: CASANOVA, OXYGEN, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award and the Booker Prize in 2001, THE OPTIMISTS, ONE MORNING LIKE A BIRD, and PURE.

Product Description

Amazon Review

At the heart of Andrew Miller's first novel, Ingenious Pain lies the question "What does the world need most--a good, ordinary man, or one who is outstanding, albeit with a heart of ice?" The outstanding man in question is James Dyer, an English freak of nature who, since his birth during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, has been impervious to physical pain. Not only does he feel no pain, but he also recovers from all injuries in record time. By turns a foil for a quack doctor at county fairs and an object of study by a wealthy collector of human oddities, the protagonist, James Dyer, eventually becomes a surgeon. As such he gains exposure to a panoply of 18th-century philosophical thought, medical practice, historic events and larger-than-life rogues and heroes, both fictional and real.

As a surgeon, James Dyer excels, and his inability to feel--whether physical pain himself or empathy for others--seems only to enhance his skill with a knife. James slices and dices and cures without a scintilla of compassion while his reputation grows, until at last he arrives in Russia and the mystery of his unusual quality is resolved. Miller navigates his complicated story and exotic locales with unswerving confidence, bolstered no doubt by thorough research. James Dyer is not a character who invites love, but his adventures make for intelligent, deeply pleasurable reading. --Alex Freeman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


'A smashing, can't-put-down historical novel, which vividly portrays the everyday life of the period and the thirst for scientific knowledge' Bibiophile --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh look at what it means to be human 7 Jan 2000
By A Customer
I loved this book. Every detail was fresh with insight into the human condition. Suffering (both physical and mental), love, ambition, death - all were addressed with freshness, warmth and compassion. Even now, eight months after reading the book, I feel as if I have a film of the book's events running through my thoughts. Every detail had meaning. Every plot turn was the natural result of the character's personalities, flaws and desires. Nothing felt contrived. Amazing.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book was an absolute page turner for me. A friend reflects back over the strange life of a man from early age to adult surgeon. The man in question, after several adventures becomes one of the most sought after surgeons in the whole of europe, only one thing...he cannot feel any emotions or physical pain. And this of course creates problems. Towards the end of the book there is a great climax of events and then ends as it began. (Nice closure!) Set circa 17-18th century ? (sorry dates were never my forte) when a good bleeding was a cure for what ails you and much experimentation was going on . The scenes are graphic, incredibly beautiful, sometimes mystical.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
This first time author so skilled and so committed to his subject that he has been able to reject all the conventions of novel writing and still get his surprising book published--receiving rave reviews on two continents in the process!
Miller sets the book in the eighteenth century and begins with a graphic autopsy of the main character. Here he recreates the philosophical and scientific attitudes of the period, attitudes which are alien to our own, and which he will explore as a subtext throughout the book. He summarizes the life of the main character--which he spends the rest of the book recounting--in the first chapter, eliminating any climactic excitement he might have created. His main character is a man with the inability to feel pain, someone with whom the reader cannot possibly identify, and his adventures are weirdly melodramatic, so unusual the reader's interest lies primarily in their curiosity.
Yet the book "works," and very often thrills. Somehow he does manage to make the reader care about James Dyer and his fate, and he does create excitement in a plot which skips from small town England to the court of Russia. Miller's masterful and controlled use of description is a primary factor in his ability to further the action of this unusual story and bring the characters and the period alive. This reader was awestruck by Miller's creative daring--and by his success. Mary Whipple
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Novel in Years! 23 July 1999
By A Customer
Many books are described as 'poetic' and 'lyrical', but few are as deserving of the adjectives as this. The relentless use of the first person carries the reader along as though on a wave, and few writers display such an understanding of the power of the English language. Quite simply one of the best books I've read in years, truly 'haunting' (another overused, but apt adjective) and genuinely moving with scenes you'll be thinking back on many months later. And it's Miller's first novel! A great book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rare treat 26 Mar 2006
By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER
A doctor that is uncapable of feeling physical pain, now there's an original starting point for a novel! Set in the 18th century but timeless in its study of human behaviour, and written in a most beautiful style. Insightful, engrossing, captivating, ... you name it, this book has it all.
I've lost count of the number of people I've recommended this to, and most of them still thank me for it ;-) Allow yourselves a treat, I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ingenious 10 April 1999
By A Customer
Andrew Miller's novel is comparable to Patrick Suskind's "Perfume" in that it narrates the fortunes of a character whose sensory peculiarities set him apart from the rest of humanity. It is the story of a man who cannot feel pain. The prose is simple but beautiful and very moving, and the 18th-century setting (a time when satisfactory methods of anaesthesia had yet to be developed) raises questions of how much faith should be put in the science of medicine and to what extent suffering is necessary in making us human. We have much sympathy with James Dyer as he grows up being treated as a freak, but while he grows to become a greater surgeon for his lack of squeamishness, does his absence of compassion also make him a lesser man?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Book 22 May 2008
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
I loved this book. It reminded me very much of Rose Tremain's Restoration in feel and genre. It is a fascinating study of a man out of his time who is both an alien and an outsider and yet has the ability to touch people when he himself cannot be touched.

It is profound, moving and exceptionally well written. It's a great historical novel, really getting into the time it is set in, and full of lovely details that shape your immersion as the reader into the work. It's melancholy and beautiful and I highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning. An absolute joy to read. 28 May 1999
By A Customer
I would not be able to do justice to Andrew Miller's beautiful use of language and incredible turn of phrase. James Dyer is burnt into my memory - whole episodes reappear unexpectedly. How many books can you say that about? This book also contains one of the best lines I've ever read ... "I haven't felt so verminous since I was last in France." ... (My sincerest apologies if misquoted.) Read it, see for yourself and then recommend it to all your friends.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-written and fascinating read.
A riveting account of a dedicated surgeon's efforts to help his patients.
Published 27 days ago by shirley russell
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 2 months ago by j g hames
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pain of unknown Genius
Whether Miller's ego cares or not I do. Ingenious Pain should be famous to the point of compulsive reading in schools worldwide. It is flawless in both delivery and message. Read more
Published 5 months ago by alan hanby
4.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected book!
It is difficult to imagine not only what life was like during the enlightenment period, but just how people thought - in this book Andrew Miller has made a remarkable job of doing... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Neil
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacked flow
Captures interest initially but later is like reading through treacle. Did not like the story being related by letters , thats ok once or twice but I found it to be tedious after... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Judy Lavender
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Sheer poetry. Beautiful writing by this master. I read Pure and had been so impressed with that, that I had read more. Ingenious Pain exceeded expectation. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mr. Clive Restall
5.0 out of 5 stars recommended read
Not yet read, but I am looking forward to it as I have enjoyed Andrew Miller's work in the past. 'Pure' - to name but one, a absorbing and informative book.
Published 14 months ago by Mrs. Angela READ
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book
Wonderfully imaginative and moving. The characters are completely believable - with all their human failings and foibles. Read more
Published 16 months ago by AnnaC
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting & Ingenious
I ready Mr Miller's "Pure"a few months ago and really enjoyed it despite the novel being a tough read. So I decided to have a go at Ingenious Pain and was well rewarded. Read more
Published 16 months ago by nickyb
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional journey
I have read other books by Andrew Miller and thought they were brilliant, so decided to leap into his first work. Better late then never. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Bev Rogers
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