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Ingenious Pain

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  1,044 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
"What does the world need most--a good, ordinary man, or one who is outstanding, albeit with a heart of ice?" This is the question at the heart of Andrew Miller's first novel, Ingenious Pain, a book set during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment. The outstanding man in question is James Dyer, an English freak of nature who, since birth, has been impervious to physical pa ...more
Paperback, 337 pages
Published 1997 by Sceptre
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Agnieszka
May 15, 2015 Agnieszka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, reviewed, 2015


James Dyer is dangerous man . He’s dangerous because he does not care . And such people are always dangerous . Endowed with special gift or maybe a curse he’s imperious to pain , both physical and emotional . And hence his lack of empathy , ordinary human kinship , a bit of compassion and concern . That something what makes us humans .

He was born in a small English village , as the result of not really romantic adventure on the rink and until the tenth year of life had never ever cried not even
...more
Maciek
I recently heard an interview with Andrew Miller on the radio - he was speaking about his last book, Pure, which was just published here in translation. He was an interesting and eloquent speaker and got me interested in reading his book, but then I remembered about Ingenious Pain - and that I've had this book on my shelf for over four years.

I'm glad that I heard this interview, as it reminded me of why I became interested in this author and why I bought this book in the first place. Ingenious P
...more
Jon
Jul 06, 2011 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not exactly a title that says "pick me up and buy me," but nevertheless a very richly detailed novel set in 18th century England, one that really made me feel what it must have been like to be alive then. Too many beautifully worded descriptions to repeat here, but here's one on a new-born calf: "A glorious sight! The cow's expanse of tongue licking the calf, and the calf itself, trembling, delicately stunned by its passage into the air." The story is about a man who is born without the ability ...more
Barb
Very Interesting Premise, Interesting Characters, Historically Well Written. But the ending and the relationships between the characters were a bit disappointing to me.

There were parts of this novel that I really enjoyed, the author is clearly talented. He creates vivid images, some memorable characters and moves the story along at a brisk pace. It was only in the fleshing out of the emotional relationships between his characters that I found myself wanting for more.

James Dyer cannot feel pain,
...more
Steve
Aug 15, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing
Mid 5. This is a sublime achievement for a debut novel as Miller has not only created a tour-de-force of historical fiction, but has also captured the essence of the period of the Enlightenement with on the one hand, its heady mix of scientific enquiry and heightened awareness of the wider world to be explored, and on the other, the underlying cruelty and barbarity which still anchored society to the superstitions and practices of gthe past. James Dyer is a masterful creation with which to vivid ...more
د.حنان فاروق
قالت لي أمي ذات حنان أنها كانت تود لو تضعني وأخي في بيت زجاجي لا يدخل لنا منه حزن أو ألم نستمتع منه بالعالم دون أن نتوجع...لو تعرفين يا أمي.. هذا الألم هو عين إنسانيتنا ولعله الأمانة التي جفلت منها السماوات والأرض وحملناها طوعاً فكانت صليبنا ومخلصنا معاً...الألم هو قصة الحياة والفرح والحب والأمل والصبر والصمت والحلم...الألم هو يد الحكمة ونبرة الإيمان وشفا الجنون وعصف الضجر والغضب.،،الألم هو أن نكون نحن ..لا الآلة التي يحاول الزمن الحديث أن ينقلنا إلى عالمها ويجردنا من إرثنا المترامي الذي ورثناه ...more
Ugh
May 17, 2009 Ugh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little disappointing. The first half or two thirds is quite engrossing, and it's very well written (although I wouldn't go so far as to say "dazzling" or "extraordinary", as the critics on the cover proclaim), but it just didn't do enough for me. I don't think the characters in general and the main character in particular are fleshed out enough, and the story doesn't do an awful lot. It doesn't impart much in the way of wisdom or insight or offer any fresh or surprising perspectives. If I'd di ...more
Velvetink
Mar 11, 2010 Velvetink rated it really liked it
"And did you get what you wanted from this life,even so. I did.
And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on earth" - Raymond Carver.

I have to agree with a few other people and say that it's a combo of historical fiction and fantasy. The ending was a bit sudden and disappointing, but overall I enjoyed it. Lyrical and sometimes grim.
Issicratea
Aug 31, 2013 Issicratea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 1990-2010
I think I was first alerted to Andrew Miller as a novelist when I read admiring reviews of Ingenious Pain, his first novel, but I somehow didn’t get round to reading the book; instead, I read a couple of his later books, Oxygen and the highly-acclaimed Pure.

On the basis of these, I was developing a notion of Miller as someone who promises much but somehow doesn’t quite deliver. Pure has outrageously good subject-matter for a historical novel, and would make a memorable elevator pitch; it also c
...more
James Rye
Jan 08, 2016 James Rye rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't technically a review, because I'm afraid I abandoned the book about a third of the way through. I just couldn't finish it. I bought it on the strength of the author's novel "Pure" which I thoroughly enjoyed, and which fascinated me on a intellectual level and moved me emotionally. There was a main character I could identify with and a plot that had tension. For me, both of those were missing from this book.

This book has won prizes. I can see that it does have beautiful prose, but I wa
...more
Elizabeth Baines
Sep 17, 2011 Elizabeth Baines rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book when I first read it a few years ago but reading it again found that I hadn't remembered it as well as I thought - I'd really only remembered the basic concept and not the picaresque story which makes up most of the novel. So I'm rather more dubious about it now, feeling that its 'high concept' is merely illustrated rather than developed. It's a great read, though, moving, and a vivid and authentic-seeming depiction of the atmosphere and language of eighteenth-century England. ...more
Tuck
andrew miller's debut novel, historical 1700's england and europe and russia, an md who cannot feel pain, but he meats our plenty. author won james tait black award and impac award for this. prose as cold as ice, and burning too.
Mai Mostafa
Feb 06, 2012 Mai Mostafa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the books that inspired me the most. I was a little disappointed at first, because I wanted more out of it. But then I realized that what I love the most about that book is that I long for more of it. Definitely leaves room for the reader to use his/her imagination and get creative.
Deanne
Nov 20, 2012 Deanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
James Dyer as the hero of the book is a little hard to feel sympathy for. Probably this is due to the coldness of his character, hard to like someone with little emotion.
The story of his life however is interesting, from his birth to him travelling to Russia to innoculate Catherine the Great.
Peter Fogtdal
Oct 31, 2008 Peter Fogtdal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Peter by: I found it in a hotel in Thailand (!)
Ingenious Pain is one of the best historical novels I ever read. It's the first work of British writer Andrew Miller. And what a first novel. It's extremely well written and tells the story about a boy/man/doctor who can't feel pain, neither his own or others' . Wow! I repeat, Wow!
Mahmoud Zaki
Dec 09, 2015 Mahmoud Zaki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
اول عمل اقرأه " لاندرو ميللر " ؛ بداية شعرت بالملل من احداث الرواية وشخصياتها الغريبة ، بعد ذلك بدا الامر يسر نوعاً ما والسرد اصبح امتع واكثر جاذبية ...

تدور الرواية في القرن الثامن عشر في إنكلترا ، كل شئ إنجليزي من أول الشخصيات وأسمائها حتي الجغرافية إنجليزية % ووصُفت بحرفية عالية ...

دكتور غريب الاطوار ، خارق .. لا يشعر بالالم وتلتئم جروحه بسرعة رهيبة ، يستخدمه دجال وهو صغير في نصب الاعيبه علي الناس عن طريق بيع دواء لهم من خلال تجربته علي الطفل " جيمس ديير "

يُختطف بعد ذلك الي ايطاليا ويتعلم د
...more
Steve Cox
I found the book interesting to begin with. The idea of a man who goes through life not being able to experience pain is intriguing. I stopped before the end. I was initially unimpressed with the first person present viewpoint. Later on I got the hang of that and got drawn into the story, but somehow, I lost the narrative urgency after the St Petersburg adventure and haven't picked up the book for over a week. Another book I'm reading, by Tim Parks, ('Where I'm reading from') makes the point tha ...more
Book Concierge
In 1739 James Dyer is born to an impoverished family in the small English village of Blind Yeo. He never cries, and doesn’t even speak for ten years. He quietly observes and forms his view of the world, skewed by his inability to feel any pain – physical or emotional. He becomes a sort of freak show display, used first by a con man selling useless potions, and then “safeguarded” by a wealthy patron with an insatiable curiosity for nature’s oddities. Eventually, he becomes a celebrated surgeon an ...more
Roz Morris
Feb 23, 2013 Roz Morris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this - up to a point. Around the middle, it takes a turn that I feel spoils it. Moreover, I suspect that this turn was suggested by an editor as it suddenly seems to become a different kind of book - and not in a good way. It looks as though it's been twisted to include redemption and it doesn't work. Not that redemption couldn't work in a novel like this, but here it seems unconvincing.
Maybe for other readers, this is its masterstroke. I won't say too much about it because I'd be
...more
Kim
Apr 25, 2012 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tony
Aug 15, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
INGENIOUS PAIN. (1997). Andrew Miller. ****.
This was Mr. Miller’s first novel, and a fine one at that. I have read several of his later books, but have now gone back to pick up the earlier ones. This is the story of James Dyer (b. 1739, d. 1772), Miller’s fictional creation and protagonist. The story opens as an autopsy is being performed on Dyer’s body. It is not strictly an autopsy, but a removal of some of the major organs by two doctors who are looking for the secret of Dyer’s powers. We the
...more
Steve
Feb 07, 2009 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tells the story of James Dyer, born in 18th century rural England, who is unable to feel pain. Exploited first by a travelling showman, then by the doctor who rescues him, he becomes a successful if unlikeable doctor, apparently lacking a soul. The story is interesting and well told, but ultimately seemed to me as empty as the main character. Not to mention that someone unable to feel pain would hardly have survived the limited hygeine of the period beyond his earliest years. But that's a quibbl ...more
Alison
Apr 28, 2016 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book. Even the reviews here were not very descriptive. All I knew is that it took place in the 18th century, it spanned a few countries, and the author won an award with it.

Thankfully, I can say, I enjoyed this read. While the story, itself, dragged at times as it followed an arrogant man through his life, the writing style was completely unique and captivating. The story is told through a circle of time, beginning in 1772, then going back to t
...more
Karen Whittingham
Sep 10, 2016 Karen Whittingham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book very much. It reminded me of The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker by Tobias Smollett, something I read for my comprehensive undergrad class on the English Novel at UCB, as the first notable example of the peripatetic novel. I enjoyed that book, too, much more than I might have expected. I think the parallel was deliberate on Miller's part, as there is a character named Tabitha, cropological references, the different voices of the narrators, the use of letters, diaries, etc, opt ...more
Mark Peters
Jun 19, 2012 Mark Peters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


An intriguing and inventive book that by its main conceit reminded me of 'Perfume' (otherwise neither book was that similar) and while I wasn't too put out by the changes in narrator and the time jumps I'm afraid I did find it a little contrived. Worthy book for sure and I'm glad I read it but was slighter than its awards haul would have suggested.
JackieB
Aug 10, 2012 JackieB rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, historical
This was a historical novel which explored the idea that it is our ability to feel pain which enables us to feel empathy, compassion and pleasure. I didn't always agree with his arguement but it got me thinking and I enjoyed the book. It had a credible historical background and I really liked the author's writing style.
Helen
Jul 13, 2009 Helen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Another book I started and left without finishing. It is written in Ye Olde English and felt totally contrived and annoying, so much so I couldn't get into the storyline, which is supposed to be absolutely wonderful.
Anna Maria
Mar 05, 2016 Anna Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant literary, historical novel. I loved it and will definitely read it again.
James Dyer is born without the ability to feel pain, physically or emotionally, which also makes him unable to feel empathy. Yet he isn't an unlikeable main character, although you will often find him chilling, as the book reveals in the first chapter that he is a character to be pitied.

You will want to avoid this if you're squeamish. It is a very macabre, visceral book, but also at times funny and often very to
...more
Justin
Jul 25, 2011 Justin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting premise for a story. I read it on vacation and I found it really difficult to get into, due mostly to Miller's writing style.
Carly
Jan 31, 2016 Carly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this much more than Pure. This is fresh and confident and takes the reader somewhere. Clever pacing and movement between temporal and authorial perspectives. I remained intrigued by the characters throughout in a way that Pure failed for me personally. The are so many "why didn't I write that" lines here, a great deal of wit and sharpness of observation about life, death, faith, regret, and contentment. I was racing ahead and I am not sure I fully understand the significance of the end ...more
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Andrew Miller was born in Bristol in 1960. He has lived in Spain, Japan, Ireland and France, and currently lives in Somerset. His first novel, INGENIOUS PAIN, was published by Sceptre in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Grinzane Cavour prize in Italy. His second novel, CASANOVA, was published in 1998, followed by OX ...more
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