173 of 176 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful novel, a great political study, and a vivid medical narrative
Verghese brilliantly brings to life the Addis Ababa of the 1960s,'70s and '80s,a time of horrific political convulsions that transformed the ancient hidden Christian African empire of Haile Selassie's day into a Stalinist revolutionary hell under Mengistu, and to his regime's final collapse. Yet this is just the background, to a convincing and beautiful saga of passions...
Published on 27 July 2009 by Mr. P. Robbs
3.0 out of 5 stars Blood and gore in Africa
It was an interesting read and provoked some interesting discussions with my book group. The medical procedures were meticulously detailed but at times so graphic that I felt repelled and distracted from the main narrative. For me, the novel gained pace as soon as the protagonist went to live and work in America, possibly because I could relate more to the background...
Published 2 months ago by val
Most Helpful First | Newest First
173 of 176 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful novel, a great political study, and a vivid medical narrative,
This review is from: Cutting for Stone (Paperback)
Verghese brilliantly brings to life the Addis Ababa of the 1960s,'70s and '80s,a time of horrific political convulsions that transformed the ancient hidden Christian African empire of Haile Selassie's day into a Stalinist revolutionary hell under Mengistu, and to his regime's final collapse. Yet this is just the background, to a convincing and beautiful saga of passions and of family upheavals and torments, woven well into accounts of how a group of doctors are connected by relationship, rivalry and skills into a collective of dedicated men and women fighting to save life in a poor and war-torn third world country. It held me to the last full stop. Surprisingly, the book has attracted less attention in Britain than in the US. It deserves better from UK readers.
70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cuts deep in every way.,
I have never been to Ethiopia, but such was the writing I felt that I was there. Verghese makes the characters in his book come completely alive, and you begin to really care about them. It is the tale of twins, born in unusual circumstances, not least because their mother is a nun. Their subsequent childhood, in which they are raised within a very loving family by Hema and Ghosh, not their natural parents, sets the scene for all that is to come. Marion falls in love with a childhood friend, as good as a sister, but is ultimately betrayed by the two people he least expected. The betrayal has deep ramifications that ring out through the rest of time. This is an extremely moving novel, and I was not surprised to learn that the author is himself a surgeon, as he gives some fairly detailed accounts of various operations that take place. Needless to say, all the key characters in this book are surgeons or become surgeons. The skilled writing made me feel very involved in these medical procedures, and it was a genuinely fascinating journey into an area I have never read about in any detail. All I can say, is this book was an incredibly moving one, well-written and stays with you long after you have turned the last page.
65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent storytelling,
At 560 pages, this isn't a quick read but you won't regret investing your time in reading this immensely rewarding story. It is a very readable novel, almost family saga-like in its style and one which I was very sorry to finish.
Not for the squeamish, some sections are a bit like a busy night at ER, although obviously in a less Westernised setting. Ethiopia is vibrantly described and you really feel immersed in its culture and history. Somehow the story of the twins and their perhaps far fetched, almost Thorn Birds like conception doesn't impinge on the intense realism of this epic story which covers 50 years and several continents. The characters are all well developed and three dimensional and although the story is never overly sentimental you may need some tissues. The author doesn't overdo the twin theme but there is something so intriguing about twins and their relationships and I'm thinking more along the lines of Kane and Abel, Romulus and Remus rather than John and Edward of X Factor fame/infamy!
An intelligent and gripping story which will remain with you long after the final page has been turned - striking in its orginality and one which I will hope capture the imagination of a lot of readers.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best book I read in 2011,
I have never written a review on Amazon before but I enjoyed "cutting for stone" so much that I find myself logging on to write about it, hopefully to encourage others to enjoy this wonderful novel. The story is riveting, and the characters well drawn. The unfolding plot is intricate but so beautifully interwoven that not a word is redundant. For me, however, the unique feature of this book is the medical detailing. I am a doctor and nothing irritates me more than novels that include inaccurate or unnecessary medical detail. Abraham Verghese, on the contrary, allows his passion for medicine (and, better still, for the caring side of medicine) to shine through the story, underpinning the unfolding drama but never in a way that is extraneous or intrusive. I sat up into the night to finish this book, and I still keep finding my mind turning to the characters. All in all, this is definitely the most enjoyable and satisfying read of 2011 for me.
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Gorgeous!,
This is an incredible novel that has sucked me in and largely taken over my life for the past three days. I usually don't read much over the weekend when my husband is around, but this has been one that I've carried round like a security blanket and have tried to sneek pages in at any opportunity. It is intellectual, yet the investment is worth it. It is a beautifully written and compelling book that is a bit like ER - good story, plenty of medical detail, and well developed characters and personal relationships. Yet there is clearly something more; it reaches higher than anything I've read in a while. There is a truly special quality about this novel, something I can't quite put my finger on, it stands head and shoulders above most contemporary fiction. BUY IT!!! (but make sure you have a few days to spare...)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I read all year,
This is a wondrous novel packed with history, inspiration, imagination and a terrific story. For me the novel only really got going after the birth of the twins - the beginning was the weakest part. But what rewards from their birth onwards... I found it fascinating how their two lives were so wildly different yet so close and intertwined. The descriptions of Ethiopia during Haile Selassie's reign are so vivid and engaging that I felt it brought history alive in the most effective way. It also made me desperately want to visit the country some day. I read this book while in Ghana but felt like I was in Ethiopia until I turned the last page. The love the twins have for each other was enchanting - even after unexpected betrayal.
This is a great book to read on the Kindle as the vocabulary used throughout is rich and rare - I loved continuously looking up all these curious new words. I suspect that just like the twins, the author as a child learned new words every day.
This is a rare book with a gripping story, fascinating characters and rich in history and human emotion. A genuine pleasure to read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Personal impact,
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I wondered what could possibly follow the Stieg Larsson trilogy. This can. It is about many layers and generations of love. Once I started reading, I did not want to stop. Its particular emotional resonance for me was the early story's significant places: Aden (I was part of the British army's ignominious withdrawal in 1967); Asmara (I worked there for seven years in an itinerant advisory role, while with the UN in New York); Edinburgh (my home town) and Addis Ababa, the centre of the story (where I lived and worked for 18 months, feeling the elation and anguish of blind love). Then towards the end, Rome featured (where I proposed to my fiancé in July 2010 and bought a ring of engagement, only for her to end the love nine months later, by email!). As to the book itself? Frankly, just read it. It is very, very highly recommended! In addition, I seem to be taking the view that books which prompt thoughts on one's own life are worthy of extra thought. `Hero' was one example. This is most definitely another!
Author of The Early Years.
99 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cut Above The Rest,
This review is from: Cutting For Stone (Hardcover)
As a reader, I'm always in search of that book I would rate a "10" but, unfortunately, these books don't come around that often. Sure I've read books in the past year that I've given 5 stars to but their actual rating was less than a "10". They probably fell in the "8" or "9" range. I've read some really good mysteries this year but I rate them according to their genre so I don't really put them in the same category as good literature. I knew the second half of this year had some potential as three of my favorite authors, John Irving, Pat Conroy and Richard Russo, all have books coming out. But then I started hearing some buzz about this book set in Ethiopia, Cutting For Stone, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's not one I would have picked up on my own simply because the title was so weird. Cutting For Stone....what the heck is that? With the long 4th of July weekend looming before me, I knew I wanted to read something great and decided to take a chance with Verghese's novel. I'm so glad I did.
I've always been the type of reader who loves when an author takes me somewhere I've never been before and, while there, teaches me things I've never known. When they're able to do this teaching without preaching, it's an extra added bonus. I've never been to Ethiopia and I know I'll never go there. When I think of Ethiopia, I have visions of a totally undeveloped country. While I'm sure these visions are partially true, Verghese really opened my eyes to another part of the world in a country where medical teams still strive for perfection without the kind of money that easily flows into many of the hospitals of which we're familiar. Verghese's Ethiopia is filled with people who love their country and their food and their smells and their customs. And when a time comes that they leave their beloved country behind, they miss it as much as we would miss ours. Just recently, I was driving down a street in Manhattan and I saw an Ethiopian restaurant. Other than thinking that they surely have every single kind of restaurant in NYC, my other thought was, "Who would go to an Ethiopian restaurant?" After reading this book, it is clear to me how much business this restaurant probably gets from all of the people who have made their way to this country from Ethiopia and what a blessing it must be for them to get some real home cooking on foreign soil.
When you have an author who grew up in the country he's writing about, it makes everything seem so much more real as these are his real experiences. It reminded me of reading The Kite Runner by Hosseini and how much I got to learn about Afghanistan because it's where that author spent most of his life. In this case, not only did Verghese grow up in Ethiopia but, while there, he also became a doctor. The fact that a majority of this book takes place in a hospital lends itself to some more first hand knowledge from this very gifted author. Another part of the knowledge I amassed was about the politics of Ethiopia under the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie and the political coups during that time to try to take him down. I found this part of the book fascinating.
Before I give you the impression that this book has no story and it's just a learning experience about a country and its ruler, I have to say that it is every bit the story for which every avid reader is searching. It's a novel that's epic in scope and begins on a ship sailing from India to Yemen where a young nun meets a very seasick British doctor and is able to nurse him through that voyage. Some years later, they will meet again in a hospital in Ethiopia where she will become his right hand through every one of his surgeries. Until one day, she doesn't show up in the operating room and the real story begins. Twins are born, secrets are not revealed, lives are shattered and all of this will be narrated by one of the male twins...Marion. I am not even going to go into the entire summary of the book because too many other reviewers here have given too much away already. Suffice it to say that you will not be able to put it down. Every time I picked it up, I was wondering where each of these characters had been since I was last reading. The author does an amazing job of inserting you into their lives and developing characters you will come to love...Matron, the ruling nun of the hospital; Hema, the gynecologist; Ghosh her beloved husband and surgeon; Dr. Thomas Stone, head surgeon; Sister Mary Joseph Praise, his loyal assistant and the twins Shiva and Marion. I'm already making this review longer than I wanted so I'll leave the story there because I know you will be reading it yourself.
It's a tale of love and hope and desire and "enlightenment". I say enlightenment for two reasons. Clearly each of these characters will have their eyes opened in such a way that it will make a mark on their souls. But I can't help but think that there are some references to Buddha that can't just be coincidental. In two separate cases, the author has one character returning from prison...after 49 days of imprisonment...while he has another character becoming unconscious....after 49 days of the onset of an illness. This is the exact number of days (49) that Buddha meditated before he became enlightened. I would love to know if this was done intentionally.
I recently had a friend tell me that they had given up on reading books that had in excess of 500 pages. I can't understand this statement because most of my favorite books were definitely in that category. So what else can I say about the book that was clearly my favorite so far this year. I just wish there were more books like this and more authors who could tell a story like Verghese. All I can say is thank you for 534 pages of reading bliss.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have read in years - brought tears to my eyes.,
`He was teaching me how to die, just as he'd taught me how to live.'
`A rich man's faults are covered with money, but a surgeon's faults are covered with earth'.
These two quotes are just 2 of the many apt quotes which abound in this novel. Books often polarise people's opinions and this book is no exception with many people criticising the amount of time devoted to the description of a whole variety of complex medical procedures. Of course, the book is written by a medical professional and most of the lead characters are surgeons and the storyline has a very strong medical base. Personally, I thought that the medical procedures were necessary, relevant and proportional to the story. Without any shadow of doubt this is one of the best books that I have read in years!
While much of the book is about a small hospital in Ethiopia, for me the novel was more about people, personalities and relationships and in particular how some people find forgiveness so difficult and the destructive consequences of this human failing. There is so much to enjoy with this book. It is a riveting read from beginning to end, although if I am brutally honest there was a brief moment two thirds of the way through when I felt that the story was losing its momentum. It would be a `spoiler' to give the reason for this but suffice to say that the story soon regained its former glory and the final quarter was both moving and fulfilling.
This is a beautiful story and it is very well told. There were times when I confess that it brought tears to my eyes. It is undoubtedly a book that I will want to re-read.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read!,
Verghese thoroughly enthralled me with his knowledgeable and nuanced storytelling. I learned a lot about a variety of different subjects: Ethiopia, Eritrea, transplants, fistulas...but always within the totally engrossing context of the characters' lives. I highly recommend it!
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Out of stock