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Ingenious Pain

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  846 ratings  ·  83 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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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
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
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
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,
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 vividly brin ...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
"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.
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
James Rye
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
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
Elizabeth Baines
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
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
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.
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 H. Fogtdal
Oct 31, 2008 Peter H. Fogtdal rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Peter H. 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!
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
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
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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
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
Mark Peters

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.
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.
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.
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.
Carrie Turner
I couldn't finish it. Couldn't really get into it.
Sonja Trbojevic
This is my second reading of this book, and I think I enjoyed it more this time. Miller's style and language perfectly evoke the time of the Enlightenment, a time of experimentation and new knowledge. Powerful, poetic and lyrical descriptions, and the use the first person takes the reader on a picaresque journey of the human condition. Whilst this is a novel of magic realism, it nevertheless manages to pose the question "Is the ability to feel pain linked to empathy/human feelings, or is it the ...more
This book is a curious contemplation on human pain and its role in life. The main character, James Dyer, is a kind of a monster - a man who is incapable of feeling any kind of pain, and, thus, incapable of normal human emotions such as empathy, fear, love, etc. Perhaps, it is due to this (dis)ability that he makes a fantastic doctor, for unlike his colleagues, he never experiences ether doubt or fear and he always wins. In his short life Dyer encounters many kinds of people, both good and bad, w ...more
Ian Mapp
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Philip Lee
There's a great idea behind this book and Andrew's background (his father was a doctor, while he studied 18th century Eng. Lit. at Uni) meant he was very well qualified to write it. On the whole, this story of a freakish man unable to feel pain, works very well. You do feel you're in the times and you face the extraordinary situation James Dyer, the central character, is in. Anyone who had read and enjoyed Perfume by Patrick Süskind would have got a kick out of this, too; though its plot is not ...more
Das Buch wollte ich schon lange mal lesen, weil ich den Titel so interessant fand. Es geht um James Dyer, der von Geburt an keinerlei Schmerz oder sonstige Gefühle empfindet. Seinen Geschwistern und auch seinen Eltern ist er unheimlich, da er nie weint und fast gar nicht spricht.
Als seine Eltern sterben, ist James gezwungen, mit einem fahrenden Händler durch das Land zu reisen und ihm dabei zu helfen, ein sogenanntes "Wundermittel" zu verkaufen. Er schafft es allerdings, diesem Händler zu entkom
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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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