Sunday, 7 November 2010
Novel: Cutting for Stone
“A sweeping novel–an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.
Destined to be doctors, Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between an Indian nun and a British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Forced to flee the country, Marion makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at a New York City hospital. …An unforgettable journey.”
I was fascinated by this novel, especially about the boys’ life at the hospital in Ethiopia in the 50s-70s. The orphaned twins are raised by two remarkable, sympathetic Indian doctors and have to face a country in turmoil. It’s easy to read except that we are spared no details of surgical operations, and the squeamish may have to skip a page or two every now and then. I certainly did, but I wasn’t tempted to skip anything else in this 600+ page book. It isn’t often that doctors have time to write so intimately and passionately about their profession and that adds a genuinely interesting dimension, as does the author’s brilliant descriptions of the colours, sounds and smells of Ethiopia.
Though larger in scope in that it encompasses civil war and exile, it reminds me of one of the longer John Irving novels. If I have a criticism it is that the ending, though appropriate and satisfying, seems to depend on too many coincidences, as if the author was determined that everything and every one should come full circle.
An excellent, unusual, gripping book. Obviously it deals with serious subjects but it’s not solemn or preachy. Do please read it if it sounds like your cup of tea.
Here's a Time's review.