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on 13 July 2016
What a book! I read a lot of books and can say that this is the best book I've read in years. Its beautiful and interesting on lots of levels. I'm sure details of medical procedures aren't for everyone but I'm a squeamish person and whilst would never watch stuff on TV, reading about it seemed a lot more digestible and I actually learnt something. The insight it gives to other countries and culture is wonderful. The philosophy and wiseness of some of the characters sometimes made me stop to re read it and ponder. It's not a pretentious book, it's a very very well written book and a genuinely interesting story. It was genuinely refreshing to read a book that was rewarding and that I'm going to remember. It's so vivid that writing this review a month after I finished, I can still remember it like I just finished it.
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on 5 July 2017
The writing particularly in the first third of the book is wonderful, but there on the plot is so good that the writing style doesn't matter and you are carried on to the finish in awe.

The book is centered on Marion and his hunt for the truth about his biological parents. It is also about relationships: with his twin brother Shiva, a girl he is interested in Genet, and his adopted parents Ghosh and Hema. The book follows Marion from when he is a baby to a fully grown up adult when he becomes a surgeon, and tells of differences between working in America and Ethiopia. What comes off clearly from the pages throughout the novel is the author's love of medicine: and I guess he is basing the character of Ghosh on himself.

Ghosh is an extroverted warm funny doctor who loves to teach Marion about medicine: how to perform physical exam correctly so to identify any abnormality if present. The writing of Verghese is so natural- (thinking about descriptions of liver physiology in the closing chapters) that I find far more absorbing than medical textbooks. Ghosh is the inspiration: and he came up with the legendary Ls: love, learning, legacy. There is a fascinating chapter when Ghosh writes to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine: arguing how a clinical sign is not pretentious: and Ghosh becomes Professor so naturally (through his love of medicine). It is also this which he shares with Thomas.

All the characters are so alive, and how Abraham does this is a mystery- but I'm given clues from reading the Acknowledgement section where he sends his work off to so many different people who know so much about a specific (talking to doctors who pioneered fistula surgery) which might explain why the book is so rich. The characters: Hema is a driven person who tries at all costs to avoid the herd life. Genet is mercurial. Thomas is shy brilliant surgeon wounded by the past. Shiva- probably favourite character- does not say much but doe not waste words- and is so different to Marion- but also inspired to greatness.

The book can also be hilarious (descriptions of ShivaMarion as babies, Rectal exam story). And is a lovely full book. I don't know if any novel Abraham writes can surpass this.
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on 8 September 2015
A book club choice which was like wading through treacle at times. When I got to p300 and the boys were still only 13, I did rather lose the will to live. However I had to finish it as there has been grumbling amongst the group about the books not being read. There was just so much unnecessary detail, particularly about medical matters and minor characters' lives. And yet Shiva remained a shadowy figure. By the time I got to the end, I couldn't remember the significance of the letter
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on 1 April 2016
This is a huge, sweeping novel, following a family though 3 generations from 1940s India, through Ethiopia, to 1980s America. I really enjoyed this book, though there are times when it feels more like a medical text than a novel. It's scope is so ambitious and it touches on so many things that I felt some things I would have liked to have read more about were somewhat skated over, which was a little disappointing. It did however provide many interesting insights into life in Ethiopia and many medical conditions common to Africa, but not well documented elsewhere. It has definitely made me want to visit both Addis Ababa and Asmara. A very enjoyable and interesting read.
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on 16 September 2014
I cannot praise this book highly enough; which is strange as 'praise' is one of the words that appears most in the text, albeit in a different context. For me, the book works on many levels; intellectually, philosophically, historically, medically and a rattlingly good story line. The characters are profound and well drawn, the story involves three continents, the unique relationship between the originally conjoined twins, the late-blossoming love of Hema for Ghosh, and the mysterious devotion between Mary and Thomas, not forgetting for one moment Matron and the native staff and servants of 'Missing.' Verghese weaves his story around, and against the strikingly colourful backdrop of Addis Ababa and the Bronx. The loose ends of the story are drawn together at the end as exquisitely as the purse-string suture that Deepak puts around the right atrium of Junior's heart. A wonderful novel, inspirational, read and enjoy it!!!
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on 23 November 2015
Wow. This is a tour de force. Beautifully written - we read it for my book club and had plenty to discuss. I was slightly annoyed by one of the characters and felt that she could have been done differently and still the story would have retained its integrity... but he writes well about a country I did not know much about and about medicine - I felt I could probably remove a bowel by the end of it. But iyt is a lovely story of a pair of twins who are literally joined at birth and grow up as a unit which gets separated by a betrayal of one twin by another - over a love interest. This chasm gets wider until they are alienated but a cataclysmic event in one of the twins' lives brings them back together with heartwrenching consequences. There is a minor character in it called Ghosh who just stole my heart.
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on 16 January 2014
Nobody could accuse Abraham Verghese of failing to write about what he knows. A professor of internal medicine, raised in Addis Ababa, trained in Madras and now a practising physician in the States, Verghese chronicles in Cutting for Stone the life of a boy born to a nun from Madras, raised in Addis Ababa and who goes on to practise as a physician in the States. Yet Cutting for Stone is all the better for Verghese's encyclopaedic knowledge and affection for its content. This is a long, ambitious novel, Dickensian in its scope, detailing the not only the life of Marion Stone, but the struggling charity hospital in which he is raised, and the turmoil of Ethiopia in the 1960's and 1970's. It is a strong premise, and one Verghese - for the most part - does justice.

Yet Cutting for Stone gets off to a rocky start. It opens with the birth of conjoined twins, Marion and Shiva Stone, to an Indian nun practising at in the fictional Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. The narrative immediately ramifies outwards and backwards, however; to the story of the twins' father, a brilliant surgeon, their mother, and the other physicians practising at the hospital. Combined with Verghese's magnificently poetic but rather dense prose, and an protracted, gory denouement, it is easy to become bogged down in the opening hundred pages of Cutting for Stone. It is one of the weakest sections of the book, and an offputting beginning.

Readers who persevere, however, will be rewarded with a rich, beautifully-crafted account of Marion's life; predominantly his upbringing at Missing Hospital. Wounded by his mother's death and father's abandonment, but still curious and driven to succeed, Marion is a sympathetic protagonist. His relationships with his foster parents, his peculiar brother, and later his all-consuming love for a childhood friend, are compelling and wonderfully-drawn. It is also through Marion that the reader comes to known the everyday beauty and tragedy of life in Addis Ababa, and later the coup and revolutionary war which wrack Ethiopia. These are fascinating topics, and evocatively written. Verghese's digressions into medicine and surgery, however, are more intrusive, and feel like self-indulgence on the part of the author. Cutting for Stone's medical content increases as Marion goes on to an internship in New York, and robs the novel of a little of its magic. The book's climax unfortunately marks a further major misstep on Verghese's part; a woefully contrived calamity lifted from the script of a daytime medical soap opera.

I would love to recommended Cutting for Stone wholeheartedly, such is the strength of Verghese's writing, his vivid characters and brilliant settings. Even bookended by flawed opening and closing sections, however, this remains an enthralling, rewarding read. Breathtaking in scope, and for the large part superbly executed, it is easy to overlook its uneven plotting and gratuitous medical content, and eagerly await Verghese's sophomore effort.
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on 13 August 2015
This was a lovely novel which depicts life in Ethiopia written through the eyes of a doctor. The best part of the novel shows the childhood of the twins where the countryside and the way of life in Ethiopia is vivid. When the novel goes off to the USA, it was, for me, less captivating, though it still involved my interest. I don't think Verghese should have changed the timing of historic events to fit in with his novel, however. Surely this should have been part of the framework of the novel. Nevertheless, a lively insight into an amazing country.
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on 16 February 2015
I first started reading this book a few years ago. It was recommended to me by a friend, but I only got about a quarter of the way through and for some reason couldn not get into it at that time. I picked it up again recently, having forgotten most of the detail, and this time it really did capture my imagination. I loved the relationship between all the Missing residents, espeically between Marion and Shiva, and then when Genet comes on the scene you know that nothing good is going to come of Marion's obsession with her.
I learnt a lot about Ethopian hisotory (all we know of in the West is the famine in the early 80s!) and also medical procedures (I am quite interested in medical matters, but some descriptions were a bit long-winded and repetitious ie, re the liver!).
I love a well-written historical saga and this fits the bill nicely.
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on 5 March 2016
Although I'm not a medical doctor, I really appreciated the author's love of surgery which permeated the novel, and I appreciated the way he wove medical details into the story. Along with the mainly Ethiopian setting, this made it very different and quite ambitious compared to other novels I have read. Nevertheless, it is very much about family and love, with a large chunk being a coming of age story.
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