Customer Reviews

47
4.0 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In a year when there are many historical novels about World War I and its repercussions, Kamila Shamsie’s latest book stands out for several reasons. One is the high quality of Shamsie’s writing. Another is that the focus is very different – not just the fighting in Western Europe or the home front, but the impact of the war, and its aftermath, way beyond Europe, specifically in the area of British-ruled India around Peshawar (some years before Partition and the creation of Pakistan as a separate country). Shamsie is from Pakistan but has lived in Britain for the last few years, and so this isn’t just a historical novel written by a Westerner and set somewhere exotic – I do enjoy some of those but it’s interesting to read something with more substance.

On a trip to an ancient archaeological site in Turkey in summer 1914, Vivian begins to look at a family friend in a new light. Her friendship with Tahsin Bey seems to be developing into an unspoken romantic understanding. Then the travellers receive news of the war in Europe, and Vivian has a telegram from her father – she must find a way to travel home immediately, with just a whispered promise from Tahsin Bey: “When the war ends, Vivian Rose”. Back in London she works as a VAD (volunteer nurse) for a few months, before setting off to Peshawar to see an ancient archaeological treasure, and hoping to meet Tahsin Bey.
There is plenty to explore there, but there is also simmering conflict between Indian nationalist aspirations and the repressive society of the British in India – the British take a dim view of a young woman wanting to lead archaeological expeditions with the local Pathan people. She returns to London but not before forming a lasting friendship.

Qaayum Gul is one of many Indian men who fought in Europe, and this novel is as much his story as Viv’s. They meet on the train to Peshawar in 1915, and then again in 1930 when Vivian returns.

World War I was a war which affected the whole world, in an era when so much of Asia and Africa was divided up between European powers and precarious empires. There is so much new to me historical background here that it gave me a whole list of things – places, events etc – I needed to look up. Shamsie doesn't lay everything out as chunks of fact that can really interfere with some historical novels, but her book is clearly informed by historical research and perspectives.

A fascinating and thought provoking story – this is the first Kamila Shamsie book I’ve read but I really must get to all her previous books very very soon.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A God in Every Stone begins in 1914 with Vivian Rose Spencer, a young Englishwoman, discovering the ancient history of Southern Turkey and falling in love with her mentor and family friend, on an archaeological dig. When war flares up Viv must return to England and work as a nurse but she still dreams pursuing her career as an archaeologist.

The novel then introduces us to a young Pathan soldier in the British Indian army, Qayyam Gul. Qayyam is wounded at Ypres and whilst recuperating in Brighton he begins to question his loyalty to the British cause.

Vivian and Qayyam's stories intersect on a train to Peshawar and the rest of the novel remains set in Peshawar in increasingly troubled times. Vivian becomes a teacher to a young boy called Najeeb and Qayyam becomes involved in the Indian independence movement. All three of these characters paths will cross when the fight for independence spills into the streets on Peshawar.

A God in Every Stone is a well written novel although I found the second part of the novel set in Peshawar to be far more evocative than the earlier section of the book. Vivian is not the most interesting character and I found Qayyam and Najeeb more sympathetic and more complicated characters. I will definitely read more of Kamila Shamsie's novels.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had not read any of this author's work before. I did think initially that I wasn't going to get into this book; Viv and the way the story seemed to be heading didn't appeal. However, once the action moved to WW1 and the Indian soldiers my interest perked up, and when the story reached Peshawar I was pulled into the beautifully realised background, if not able to muster up very much interest in the characters. Peshawar came alive for me and for a while it was one of those stories that made me really feel I was there. I also enjoyed the historical background to a period I knew very little about.
The archeological story, of the hunt for an ancient circlet, I found much less interesting, and most of the characters, except for Viv when first in India and one of the Pathans as a boy, did not grip me at all.
I think the book deserves four stars for its setting and its history, but I found the ending rather muddled and the characters did not stay with me.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2015
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Kamila Shamsie’s historical novel centres on a British woman, Viv Spencer who travels to Peshawar in what is now Pakistan at the time of the First World War. It is a very well written book – measured in tone and with tight control of the various strands of the plot – although it gives in occasionally to the temptations of exoticism and plot contrivance.

The book’s main aim, in my view, is to offer a different perspective on this place and period to conventional representations. Determined as she is to defy convention by heading out into the world on her own and pursuing a career, Viv cannot escape from her status as a British woman in colonial India. The novel therefore complicates straightforward oppositions like British/Indian; Christian/Muslim; Men/Women. It also resists the idea that there can be a single story to tell about its subject. The narrative is fragmented and told from multiple points of view, each of which gives only a partial account of any situation. The reader is presented with a series of fragments, which gradually resolve into a general picture, but one that contains contradictions, blank spots, and elements out of focus. This tendency is especially pronounced towards the end. In places, this technique adds something to the narrative tension, but more often, it makes the story disjointed and disrupts the rhythm. Because of this, I rarely found the book gripping – interesting as it was, I read it slowly and in brief chunks.

In all, there is much to be admired in this book, but as a story it does not quite fulfil its high ambitions.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2015
Vivien Rose Spencer joins her father's Turkish friend, Tahsin Bey, for an archaeological dig in Labraunda. Vivien Rose has been brought up hearing tales of Scylax, who was honoured by Darius with the gift of a silver circlet decorated with figs. Tahsin Bey clearly hopes that he will find this circlet during the Labraunda dig, so Vivien Rose is thrilled that her father gives permission for her to join the dig. At the outbreak of the First World War Vivien Rose has to return to England. Tahsin Bey hopes to join her family in England for Christmas, assuming the war will be over by then.

In wartime Vivien Rose is a VAD nurse, busy nursing the injured, and writing letters to Tahsin Bey. Sent home exhausted from hospital nursing, she and her mother arrange for her to travel to Peshawar where she hopes to investigate 'two and a half thousand years of history beneath its soil'.

In Peshawar she hopes to meet up with Tahsin Bey again and work together excavating Shahji-ki-Dheri. She sends him letters, sketches, rubbings and photographs every week while she is waiting for his arrival.

Life in Peshawar is not what she expected.

This was an interesting read, covering war and its aftermath, attitudes towards women, cultural differences. Definitely recommended.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2014
We all have our place in the chaos of history, says the jacket blurb. As in her previous novels, Kamila Shamsie links ordinary people to world changing events, yet this one goes farther. Her narrative touches two great empires - the Persian of 500BC and the British Empire of the 20th century.
Loyalty and betrayal, love and loss, conflicting ideals . . . all crop up. In particular the Great War 1915 and the hectic 1930s in British India (now Pakistan). The main characters charmingly connect the heritage of two great races - Pathan and English. As I anticipate from this author, the writing is superb. Unfortunately, however, her plot gets lost towards the end and I just don't get it.
New characters materialise and take over. I was not interested in these strangers. I wanted conclusion for the people who had enchanted me throughout. I mean, what the heck happened to the English heroine? I know she'll campaign in 1947 for Pakistan independence, but she's last seen disguised in a burka during the Peshawar Massacre of 1930. And the two male leads deserved better than a casual dumping.
All praise to deep research, informative detail, ambitious vision and skilled writing, but for me a story requires a satisfying ending and I failed to find one.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )Verified Purchase
This book is a delight. It is an evocatively written, highly intelligent, multi layered novel. It is constantly surprising, with a narrative frequently changing direction, making reading it a bit like herding the proverbial cats.

The story opens with Vivian Rose Spencer, a young Englishwoman, fascinated by archaeology, working on a dig in Turkey with German and Turkish academics on the eve of World War I. As she works she gradually becomes aware of a mutual attraction with one of her workmates. The writing makes the relationship stunningly erotic whilst also remaining chaste. Before things can progress, global conflict catches fire and Viv is returned to London where she becomes a nurse caring for wounded soldiers.

The second main chord of the narrative is introduced in the form of Qayyum Gul, a soldier in the Indian army fighting on the Western Front. Initially patriotic towards the imperial power, his experiences slowly open his reluctant eyes to the reality of his situation.

The two tales intersect fleetingly as Viv and Qayyum meet briefly on a train travelling to Peshawar, she in search of her lost love, he returning home.

As Viv meets and becomes mentor to a young boy, the story moves on from World War I to being a tale of the struggle for Indian independence.

At the basic level, this is the story of Viv's search for her lover, and for a lost artefact, of Qayyums journey from empire loyalist to rebel, and of the young boy, Najeeb's intellectual development. Shamsie uses these tales to explore themes of imperialism, of individual morality, of gender politics and of personal and political betrayal in both the 20th century and in the ancient world.

The writing is enormously vivid, especially in the scenes set in the Walled City of Peshawar where the confusion of noises and sights become at times almost hallucinogenic. This is a book which contains scenes of great violence but somehow remains very gentle and positive about the human spirit.

The end of the book is also perfect. It is not an explosive crescendo. It is a bittersweet moment which captures in the reactions of individuals, all of the themes of imperialism and independence which have come before.

Highly recommended.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2015
This is the fifth novel by Pakistani born British writer Kamila Shamsi. All of her books including this one have been shortlisted for a literary prize. This is the first time I have read her book.
The story explores interesting themes with two parallel narratives; one of an ancient Greek-Anatolian explorer Scylax who was commissioned by Persian emperor Darius to explore the length of river Indus sometimes in 515 BC. Scylax is said to have started his journey from a place called Caspatyrus described as a city close to where the rivers Indus and Kabul meet and run side by side for some distance before merging. Although no one is sure where Caspatyrus is it is thought to be the present city of Peshawar.
The second story is of a female English archaeologist who comes to Peshawar to search for a relic belonging to Scylax believed to be buried somewhere in the area while world war one is being fought in Europe and Mesopotamia. The two stories have the common theme of loyalty, for according to the legend while Scylax was much rewarded by Darius, when his native country Caria rose in revolt against Persian rule he stood side by side with his countrymen to fight the Persian army, much to the charging of Darius. And in the same manner the male lead of the novel is a young Pathan solider who has arrived back in Peshawar after losing an eye at Ypres and is torn between his loyalty to the British and the rising tide of rebellion around him.
Overall an interesting read but nowhere near as engaging as a book by Khalid Hossanie. Also, the story of Scylax may have been developed a bit more instead of some pages where the hero Najeeb is not doing much in Peshawar.
I feel that the writer was unable to bring it all together at the end and so instead of ending in a climax the story just fades away leaving a sense of disappointment.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The main part of A God in Every Stone opens in 1914 with a young, adventurous Englishwoman Vivian Rose Spencer working on an archaeological dig in Turkey. She is about to embark on a dangerous (albeit chaste) love affair with her mentor, a close friend of her father, when war breaks out and she is forced to return to Britain. Back home she nurses recuperating soldiers whilst still dreaming of pursuing a career as an archaeologist. Her Turkish connections make her a target for British intelligence officers, leading her to commit an act of betrayal, the consequences of which will haunt her for many years.

Meanwhile Qayyum Gul, a 20 year old Indian man, is serving the British army as a proud member of the 40th Pathans. Following a disfiguring injury he is recuperating in Brighton when he learns he is to be sent home, as the army high command is becoming uneasy about the level of unrest and insurgency amongst Indian recruits. Qayyum’s disillusionment leads to him becoming involved in the burgeoning Indian independence movement, playing a key role in Gandhi’s programme of civil disobedience. Interestingly, he writes to his brother that he bears no hatred for the English and blames the weakness of the Indian people for the state they find themselves in – “How dishonoured a people we were to allow the men of a small island who burn at the touch of the son to come here and be our masters”.

It’s an epic and powerful story of determination and struggle, love and betrayal and the sights, sounds and smells of early 20th century India are vividly conveyed. Shamsie writes with confidence and compassion, educating the reader about the undervalued role of Indian soldiers in the British army and the internal conflicts in the country they return to when their services are no longer required. However, the historical facts are never delivered at the expense of the real human stories behind them.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I first discovered Kamila Shamsie's wonderful storytelling - as I'm sure did many others - through her magnificent book Burnt Shadows, nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction and quite inexplicably overlooked for that year's Booker. That book tackled an enormous canvas - the bombing of Nagasaki, the partition of India, the Afghan conflict, 9/11 - and held it all together through the character of Hiroko, with achingly beautiful writing and a quite wonderful story. I'm delighted to say that I think she's done it again.

We first meet Vivian at an archaeological dig in Labraunda, once within the Persian Empire but nowadays in modern day Turkey, having her first taste of passion - her all-consuming interest in the ancient world is only matched by her growing love and admiration for the leader, Tahsin Bey. The outbreak of the First World War brings Vivian home, where she becomes a nurse looking after soldiers returned from the front. We later meet the injured Qayyum Gul, injured at Ypres, and learn a lot about the unjust way in which Indian soldiers were treated despite their commitment to the Empire.

Their stories come together when they meet briefly on a train to Peshawar, and some years later the focus moves to the political situation in Peshawar, through little known but very significant events. The author shows her skill, as in Burnt Shadows, in looking at the events through the eyes of her characters - Qayyum helping his father to write letters at his much-prized desk as others try to draw him into the politics, Vivian becoming teacher to young Najeeb while seeking permission to commence an archaeological dig inspired by her lover. The story then moves on to 1930 and the struggle for Indian independence, the two main characters still in central focus, and with a wholly satisfying conclusion.

As with Burnt Shadows, much of the historical context was largely unfamiliar to me - I'll readily admit that much of the ancient background went way over my head, but the situation within Peshawar will long stay with me. The writing is vivid - the reader walks with the characters through the walled city of Peshawar, and feel it with every sense. The themes are huge - an individual's place in history, morality, betrayal both personal and political - but it's entirely possible to enjoy this book as a wonderfully told story with complex individual stories at its heart. If this isn't your usual reading material, do give it a try - it was way outside my personal comfort zone at times too, but I loved it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
How to be both
How to be both by Ali Smith (Paperback - 16 April 2015)
£3.60

The Bees
The Bees by Laline Paull (Paperback - 1 Jan. 2015)
£6.29

Outline
Outline by Rachel Cusk (Paperback - 7 May 2015)
£6.79
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.