Book review: Cutting for Stone

So much for the plan to review some books ‘over the next couple of weeks.’ The last-minute chance for a rare trip to England interfered with that, but now I’m back and beginning to catch up with myself.

Again on the theme of Africa, Cutting for Stone is a VERY BIG book, set in Ethiopia during political turmoil under the reign of diminutive but powerful Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, Lion of Judah, revered as their god by Rastafarians and commonly known in Kenya at the time, irreverently, but affectionately, as Highly Delighted. 🙂


Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia

However, the emperor plays a minor part in the story. The main character is Marion Stone, one of twin boys born at a mission hospital to a nun and fathered by a doctor. Their mother dies in childbirth, and their father vanishes, leaving the boys to be raised by two Indian doctors. Both boys will grow up to become surgeons. Marion is a serious and studious boy, while his brother Shiva is a blithe hedonist.

Covering twenty-five years, it is a story of love in many forms. Forbidden love; brotherly love; lost love and parental love. It is also a tale of patriotism, treachery of the worst kind, and of redemption.

The author, Abraham Verghese is a doctor born in Ethiopia, who knows his subjects well and writes fluently and gracefully. All his characters are convincing and I soon forgot they were fictional as they drew me into their lives. Telling his story in the first person, Marion’s world is ripped apart as a teenager by a dual act of betrayal by two people he loves, which will have terrible repercussions over the next ten years.

There are numerous passages describing medical treatments and complex surgery, and I admit that I skipped through these and felt that they were often superfluous to the story. However, to anybody in the medical profession I imagine they would make interesting and informative reading.

At 600 pages – I read it on my Kindle so it wasn’t heavy 🙂 – the narrative IS slow and in the beginning I struggled to keep going, but I am so glad that I did because once hooked I found it a riveting read. Marion’s story is punctuated by cruel twists and sickening shocks, with a satisfying ending despite the fact that there is much tragedy along the way. I’m not going to give anything more away, but would recommend this as a work of fiction worthy of all the accolades it has received.


I hesitated between 4 and 5 stars. As a beautifully-written and compelling saga I feel it well deserves 5 stars. On the other I didn’t enjoy the detailed and lengthy medical passages and was tempted to deduct a star because of that. But then again it was simple enough to skip through them without detracting from the narrative, so it’s 5 stars from me.


2 thoughts on “Book review: Cutting for Stone

  1. Welcome back … I hope you enjoyed your visit to the ‘old country’! I really enjoy your book reviews and this one has not let me down – now that I have got a Kindle which I never EVER thought I would and am being egged on by my youngest bookworm daughter to use it I shall give this book a whirl … thank you 🙂

    • Thank you. I did indeed enjoy my visit, especially to rural Lincolnshire which the march of time appears to have by-passed. With all the horrors we hear about life in England, at heart the people, certainly the older generations are unchanged. I met so many old gents up there, capped and muffled against the wind that scythes across those flat fields, walking their dogs who were equally dressed against the cold. So lovely that everybody stopped to chat to a stranger, to be called “My love”, “Darling”, to have gents carry my suitcase up and down stairs, unasked. If only the politicians and political-correctness idiots would hurl themselves from the White Cliffs and let people get on with their lives in the way they used to.

      So glad that you have discovered the joys of the Kindle. It’s funny how resistant people are until they actually give it a try and discover that it is not an electronic evil but a very practical way of building up and enjoying a huge portable library.

      I hope you’ll enjoy the book as much as I did if you read it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s