Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Fire Tablet Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Fitbit

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
47
4.3 out of 5 stars
Format: Kindle Edition|Change
Price:£3.99


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

on 12 June 2017
This unusual novel is set in 18th century England. It narrates the life of James Dyer, born without sensation of pain. His body recovers swiftly from injury and is resistant to disease. Some years ago a US TV series, Heroes, endowed one of its cast with similar powers, a cheerleader, Claire Bennet. Catchphrase “Save the Cheerleader and save the world”, as fans might recall.

It seems unlikely that Claire was inspired by Andrew Miller’s novel, which owes more to contemporary writing – Roderick Random, Tristram Shandy – than modern comic culture.

The author explores several themes. The title indicates the most important - that James’s blessing may actually be a curse. If we cannot feel pain can we feel anything?

There is much else, especially a credible rendering of life in that period. Not just the details of diet and dress, riches and poverty. But also the way people thought – not yet Enlightened but slowly losing superstition and indeed religion. He reveals much of medicine – surgery and psychiatry as well as common remedies and cures. Description of disease and injury, and bodily function, is blunt.

He provides a rich cast of characters – doubting parsons, intellectual aristocrats, circus hucksters. We meet the Empress of Russia in the Winter Palace and fight with Byng in the Seven Years War. He uses devices of letters and diaries to push the tale along – and a very special performance of a Midsummer’s Night Dream. He writes well, his language is rich but not indigestible.

There is no plot, but the life of James provides its own adventures. The author contends most of the story is imagined. There was no James Dyer.
There are though some strange, dream-nightmare passages – with supernatural overtones. Moreover, what are we supposed to make of the death of James Dyer, in the first pages, at the age of 33? Maybe there is something of the cheerleader here!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 7 January 2000
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.
0Comment| 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 October 1998
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.
0Comment| 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 July 2014
Good
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 14 April 2015
I have read another book by the author, ‘Pure’, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so looked forward to this one, first published in 1997, and the author’s first novel (and multiple prize winner).

Like ‘Pure’, the author has taken us in this book into another’s life, and laid it bare for the reader to wonder at, and feel the emotional impact of. The protagonist of ‘Ingenious Pain’ is James Dyer, and here we follow his life, not from birth to death, but from death, to birth, to rebirth; for unlike any of us, James Dyer is a very unique person and lives his life very differently. Born in 1739, James’ early life is difficult, but he is always apart from his family, because he feels no pain – cannot comprehend it, nor feel it, nor understand it. But if he feels no pain, can he feel no pleasure either? What chance of life does such a boy have as he grows to a man?

This is an astonishing book; we read first of James as he is remembered, then his birth and upbringing; and his life is a catalogue of wonders, ghastly and horrible a lot of the time, yet wondrous and astonishing as well. The knitting together of James Dyer as a human being is ultimately a painful story, yet one that the reader is drawn into wholeheartedly. It is on the race to St Petersburg that James finally begins to comprehend the human condition, and it is through his life, and through the eyes of those whose lives meet his that we understand James, as he finally becomes to come to terms with himself. A tremendous novel, and one that takes the reader on an incredible journey.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 14 April 2015
I have read another book by the author, ‘Pure’, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so looked forward to this one, first published in 1997, and the author’s first novel (and multiple prize winner).

Like ‘Pure’, the author has taken us in this book into another’s life, and laid it bare for the reader to wonder at, and feel the emotional impact of. The protagonist of ‘Ingenious Pain’ is James Dyer, and here we follow his life, not from birth to death, but from death, to birth, to rebirth; for unlike any of us, James Dyer is a very unique person and lives his life very differently. Born in 1739, James’ early life is difficult, but he is always apart from his family, because he feels no pain – cannot comprehend it, nor feel it, nor understand it. But if he feels no pain, can he feel no pleasure either? What chance of life does such a boy have as he grows to a man?

This is an astonishing book; we read first of James as he is remembered, then his birth and upbringing; and his life is a catalogue of wonders, ghastly and horrible a lot of the time, yet wondrous and astonishing as well. The knitting together of James Dyer as a human being is ultimately a painful story, yet one that the reader is drawn into wholeheartedly. It is on the race to St Petersburg that James finally begins to comprehend the human condition, and it is through his life, and through the eyes of those whose lives meet his that we understand James, as he finally becomes to come to terms with himself. A tremendous novel, and one that takes the reader on an incredible journey.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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
0Comment| 32 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 23 July 1999
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.
0Comment| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 17 February 2010
This is a book that I'm puzzled isn't more well-known. It seems to have garnered good reviews when it first came out in the late nineties, but I'd never heard of it before. The novel is about a man who cannot physically feel pain in the mid-seventeenth century. He goes through life not quite living because while he cannot feel pain, he cannot feel pleasure, either. James Dyer is therefore cold and calculating, and becomes a celebrity surgeon because he has no qualms about cutting human flesh. He does not forge friendships, and he's essentially a cold-hearted bastard.

It's excellently written, with good pacing and an intricate plot. Lots of little things about the time period I enjoy are in here--wandering about the countryside and scamming the public, scandal, a crazy wealthy man who insists on collecting oddities, both objects and people. It's one of the best books I've read this year. The quote on the cover by The Times hits it on the nose when it states, "Astoundingly good . . . it shines like a becon among the grey dross of much contemporary fiction."
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 26 March 2006
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.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Customers also viewed these items

£6.99
£5.99
£5.99

Need customer service? Click here