Finishing an 850 page novel which weighs more than a brick at 1.30 in the morning makes choosing a star rating tricky. The sense of achievement at havFinishing an 850 page novel which weighs more than a brick at 1.30 in the morning makes choosing a star rating tricky. The sense of achievement at having finally beaten it and given my fingers six-packs in the process has maybe made me star it slightly higher than it deserves.
I'll be honest, to begin with I wasn't really 'feeling' it. I found the narrator annoying. Patronising even. A narrative voice guilty of taking control of the reader, a voice which tells you how you are feeling, or what you are doing, rather than letting you slip into the words and find out yourself. In the early pages, all I really felt was frustration at this anonymous little voice assuming things about how I should interpret everything. It's the voice of one of those pain in the arses who constantly says: 'well, someone's in a bad mood. Why are you in a bad mood?' WHEN I'M NOT. But now I am. Thank you.
But I'm glad I persevered. Eventually, the voice settled down a bit and stopped doing that, and became a more passive guide. I enjoyed it leading me down the streets of London and showing me things, rather than forcing them down my throat. It kept its idiosyncratic persona, but we got along much better after the first few chapters.
I didn't fully get into the book until page 500. Until then, I wasn't sure if I was enjoying it, but I'd read too much to put it down and pursue something else. Until that point, it was overly repetitive with a lot of unnecessary scenes drawn out for far, far too long. Luckily, Faber has a truly delicious vocabulary, so reading the same thing in a slightly different way was quite pleasant. A little dull, on occasion, but on the whole it was a vividly cinematic and sensual experience full of smells and sounds and sensations.
The feeling of being somewhere I shouldn't, and being in such close proximity with Sugar, tailing behind her bustle in a universe which felt so utterly real and disgusting, was what kept me reading. Ultimately, until page 500, nothing much happened. But without those pages and pages of character development and stalking, the final 400 would certainly not have had the impact they had. So many reviews of the novel complain about the unsatisfactory end. But it was in being unsatisfied that in an odd paradigm I felt satisfied. Faber had stuck to the nature of his universe - the Victorian London of grot and grime and misery and open ends where overtly happy endings - indeed, simply conclusive endings, endings of certainty - don't happen, especially in love (or 'love'?). To have one would be patronising....more
'Cutting for Stone' is a stunning novel which manages to pack in pretty much everything I want from a story. Actually, make that everything I want fro'Cutting for Stone' is a stunning novel which manages to pack in pretty much everything I want from a story. Actually, make that everything I want from a story.
I love reading about foreign countries I've never visited, food I've never tasted, buildings I've never seen, people I've never met, then closing the final page and feeling like I have. I love reading characters who do truly human things; who love and feel and do in such impulsive, stupid but understandable ways. I love watching them grow and develop. Verghese nurtures his characters so breathtakingly well. He brings them from little printed foetuses to tangible people I really felt I knew.
'Cutting for Stone' is a novel you will eventually close for the last time and feel sad, because the adventure of meeting someone new, getting to know them and ultimately knowing them is over. The growth you experience alongside Marion and Shiva and the tight cast which surrounds them can only be truly felt once - not knowing what is round the corner, over the page together is a thrilling experience, and one I haven't had from a novel in a long while.
It's a delicious read. It's hilarious, tragic, joyous, fascinating and intelligent all at once. It's one of the best books I've ever read, and I know finding another book to satisfy me after finishing this is going to be an absolute challenge! ...more