Sunday 7 August 2011

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

I always read the Amazon reviews for a book before I buy a book.  There were a plenty for Cutting for Stone, it isn't a new book - published 2009 - and they are very heavily weighted towards 5 stars.  But for some reason I held back.

I wish I hadn't.

It's a big book in every way.  At 500+ pages of quite densely packed text it isn't a quick read and I'll admit that at the start I felt it was too detailed.  In fact it probably could have been edited down quite a bit, but in the end for me that wasn't essential.

The story is told through the eyes of one of a pair of identical twins, sons of an Indian nun and a British surgeon.  We then follow their lives in Ethiopia, through personal and political turmoil until Marion, the narrator, is betrayed by the girl he loves and has to flee the country.  He ends up as a surgeon in the USA where his life runs no more smoothly.

It is an immensely dramatic and compelling novel, and combines intense realism with an almost magical quality.  In fact some people think the realism of the surgical descriptions are almost too vivid, but I'd say no worse than some thrillers I've read.  I'd prefer the medical details over  violence and day.  Along with the family saga, you do get a feel for the country of Ethiopia, its life, politics and history.

Frankly, I couldn't put the book down and, if it weren't for the large pile of books waiting their turn, I'd happily read it again.

Cutting for Stone is available at or at