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A God in Every Stone

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  2,019 ratings  ·  326 reviews
July 1914. Young Englishwoman Vivian Rose Spencer is running up a mountainside in an ancient land, surrounded by figs and cypresses. Soon she will discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure, and the ecstasy of love. Thousands of miles away a twenty-year old Pathan, Qayyum Gul, is learning about brotherhood and loyalty in the British Indian army.

July, 1915. Qayyum G
Hardcover, 313 pages
Published April 10th 2014 by Bloomsbury UK (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.52  · 
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At first glance,it seems interesting. It deals with vast sweeps of history,the travels of a fifth century explorer and twentieth century archeologists trying to dig out his circlet. Add the experiences of Indian army troops on the western front in World War I,and the killing of protesters,by the British army,in Peshawar in 1930.

But no sooner had I started reading,that I remembered Burnt Shadows,by the same author. That also tried to deal with too many different subjects,without looking like a co
Lucy Barnhouse
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is devastatingly perfect. I hesitate to compare it to anything else, but between the presence of Herodotus and the importance of archaeology, it reminded me a little of a more anti-imperial English Patient. There are also glorious, subversive echoes of Rudyard Kipling's Kim. And it is a book of dazzling, sensual, stunning prose; of vivid characters. Shamsie loves language, clearly, and it shows in how her characters engage with the world, as well as in the writing itself. A historical ...more

I discovered this novel when I listened to an interview with its author on a radio arts programme. Shamsie was interesting and engaging and the novel sounded appealing. It certainly ticked a lot of boxes: a focus on the separate but interwoven experiences of a young English female archeologist and of an Indian soldier during and in the aftermath of WWI, themes of individual, family and national loyalty and a vast sweep of history touching on the fall of three empires.

The novel delivers on its pr
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
A God in Every Stone is an ambitious novel in both theme and scope, but in the end one that I think over reaches itself.

Set largely in British India between 1914 and 1930, it tells the stories of Qayyum, a 20-year-old Pashtun soldier and Vivian, an adventurous young British woman with a passion for archaeology. Caught in the immense upheaval of the First World War and then the Indian uprisings, both characters experience devastating personal losses, and have to discover for themselves the cost
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another super ambitious book by Shamsie, this one about Peshawar just after WWI and then again in the 1930s and featuring an English archeologist, a young Pakistani boy with an interest in history and his older brother, a veteran of the British army who gets involved in anti-colonial politics once he returns to Pakistan. It doesn't all come together and I would have loved a Peshawar street map but I really admire what Shamsie is trying to do. And you do want to know about Greco-Buddhist art beca ...more
This is one of the best books I have read this year.

A cleverly constructed multi-threaded historical novel, largely set in the city of Peshawar - the central personal stories are gripping, and the novel explores deeper themes of empires and their legacies, the nature of archaelogy and the experiences of Asians who served the British in Europe during the First World War.

Moving, lyrical and highly impressive.
Ben Dutton
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Kamila Shamsie’s fiction crosses international boundaries. Burnt Shadows, her last novel, was a globe-trotting novel set in Japan, India, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and the US. I said of that novel that it was about people caught in “the tidal swell of history”, and it is a comment that could apply usefully to her new novel, A God in Every Stone.

In his histories, the father of the subject, Herodotus, told the story of Scylax, a man from Caryanda, who set off on a journey from the city of Caspat
Michael Livingston
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
An epic historical novel, spanning about 25 years in and around Peshawar. There's archaeology, war, betrayal, heartbreak and the stirrings of the Indian independence movement. All these plot points are weaved around three main characters - an English woman who originally goes to Peshawar to look for an ancient artifact and two brothers whose lives intersect with hers. It all felt a bit self-consciously grandiose to start with, but the plot slowly sucked me in and by the end I was swept up in it ...more
May 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Having recently watched and loved Indian Summers, and being already interested in the era of the British Empire in India, I was looking forward to reading this novel.

Evocatively written, Shamsie transported me to Peshawar and created a cast of believable characters, from Vivian, the fearless young woman trying to make her way in a man's world, Qayyam, injured in fighting a war for Britain, and Najeeb, a boy intrigued by culture and history.

However, the first half left me desperate for some acti
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Some novels grow larger as the ideas multiply. In this novel, Kamilla Shamsie has tried to contain hers into a small space. So much so, that it can be mistaken for a first novel. The result is that transitions between the different characters and the spaces they inhabit feel abrupt, not to say initially confusing. The saving grace is Shamsie’s prose style and her integrity as a writer.

Vivienne Rose Spencer has been brought up to be an independent person by her family. This was quite a liberal at
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is a delight. It is an evocatively written, highly intelligent, multi layered novel. It is constantly surprising, with a narrative frequently changing direction, making reading it a bit like herding the proverbial cats.

The story opens with Vivian Rose Spencer, a young Englishwoman, fascinated by archaeology, working on a dig in Turkey with German and Turkish academics on the eve of World War I. As she works she gradually becomes aware of a mutual attraction with one of her workmates.
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
After Salt and Saffron, which I found silly, I decided not to read more Shamsie books. But someone told me that if I liked Uzma Aslam Khan's The Geometry of God, which came out several years ago, I'd like A God in Every Stone. My response: that's the problem.

The Geometry of God begins with a girl in Pakistan finding a rock that turns out to be a fossil of great consequence. From there the story traces' the girl's struggle to overcome political and social barriers to be credited for her discovry
Rahul Sharma
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Kamila Shamsie is easily one of the finest storytellers from Pakistan and I have been an ardent fan.I LOVE her! However, 'A God In Every Stone' left me disappointed; it left me wanting for more. In fact I was searching for 'The Kamila Shamsie' of Kartography and Burnt Shadows.

Like all her books the story here is also set in the sub-continent. The protagonist travels from Britain to Turkey to India in search for a past that fascinates her. The story unfolds what covers the travels of the fifth-ce
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a ride 😭. I'm so glad I gave this book a chance. Few chapters in and I was discouraged by the archeology 'stuff' but it was all worth it in the end.

Amongst other things, the book recounts the massacre of the activists of Khudai Khidmatgar movement(a nonviolent movement against the British rule) by British troops in Peshawar (Pakistan)1930. Told through the eyes of a Najeeb Gul and his brother Qayyum Gul, an English woman, Viv and a young woman, Diwa whose bravery and kindness in the midst o
Anne Fenn
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Peshawar - who’d have thought the ancient Pakistani city would end my Covid19 reading resistance of anything terrible. I’ve been on big doses of comfort authors. Picked up quite a few heavier novels and quickly put them down, no sign of my having the stomach or concentration required.
So I’m very pleased to say I was totally engaged by this book. It just shows first, we’ve moved out of a state dread re the virus, not far, but enough. Second, a really fantastic writer can draw any old reluctant r
May 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, a
Qayyum Gul leaves home to join the Indian Army and suffers a life-changing injury at Ypres. Vivian Rose Spencer leaves home to care for injured soldiers. Their paths cross when Vivian sets off for Peshawar and Qayyum returns home. I suspect that I would have enjoyed this book more if I could have spent more time with it in larger chunks.
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a BIG and complex novel – moving from an archaeological dig in Turkey in early 1914, across the first year of the 1st World War, and through into Peshawar in both 1915 and again in 1930. It is also pretty challenging on one’s knowledge of ancient Persian mythology…(did you know that the Caspatyrus of mythology is modern day Peshawar? Or that Syclax betrayed Darius, the Emperor of Persia, and sided with the Carians against the Persians?). In Shamsie’s version of the story, Syclax has a va ...more
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
I think this book probably warrants 3.5 stars rather than 4 as there was so much about it that was interesting yet I did not feel totally emotionally drawn to the characters so at the end I was ambivalent about the outcome which perhaps may say more about me than the efforts of the author. The story has at its beginning two threads as World war one begins. Qayyam Gul is an Indian soldier serving on the western front , he is injured and in the story we learn about the appallingly racist way that ...more
Laura Lacey
This novel is shortlisted for the Bailey’s book prize and it held a lot of appeal to me: a female archaeologist studying Classics around the first world war, a star-crossed love story, interwoven experiences centuries apart and the exoticism of colonial India.

Shamsie delivers in many ways, her study of the changing role of women around the turn of the century and during WWI was interesting:

“How quickly everything that was inconceivable for a woman has become her duty. Isn’t it miraculous that co
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Another tour de force by Kamila Shamsie! Just as with Burnt Shadows,she personalises convulsive world events with characters who can barely hang on to their own narratives in the face of such enormity. Yet,these people work with what they've been dealt and try to maintain their dignity. Burnt Shadows took us from Nagasaki to Delhi to Pakistan to New York, 1945 to 2001. A God in Every Stone is framed by the Persian Emperor Darius and his vassal Scylax, but takes place in Turkey, England, and Indi ...more
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Never knew about the Qissakhwani massacre - the killing of over 100 unarmed Indians by the British on 23 April 1930. The book leads up to it and glosses over how the British tried to cover it up.

Although one or two facts seemed to be off, it was still an interesting read. Viewing Peshawar from the eye of an archaeologist gave me new perspective on what the city has endured for over two millennia.
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: india, owned-books, asia
I had great difficulty in remembering this book, to write a review - and that seems to sum up how unmemorable it was for me, although I read it recently. I was not won over by the heroine. Ambitious but sloppy both in the history and in the writing.
Apr 05, 2014 rated it really liked it

It isn’t very often that I pre-order a brand new hardback, however I was already a fan of Kamila Shamsie’s writing and so when I heard that A God in Every Stone was due out in April, I had to make sure I got my copy as soon as I could. Of course the danger with a much anticipated new novel is, that it is so anticipated that it can only disappoint. Thankfully I was certainly not disappointed in this novel – I enjoyed it enormously, however I don’t think it has quite the emotional power of Burnt S
Sam Woodfield
Mar 23, 2014 rated it liked it
So this is quite an odd little book which I found a little bit ploddy and lacking in real plot but with very clear political undertones.
The novel follows Vivian Spencer and Qayyum Gul, both very different people from different walks of life who will be thrown together in the most dangerous of circumstances. Vivian Spencer is a young woman who defies the odds at the time by being allowed to fulfil her ambition to be an archaeologist. Qayyum Gul is a young man thrown into WWII to fight for Britain
Richard Moss
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This is a big novel. Not necessarily in terms of the number of pages (around 300) but certainly in its scope and ambition.

Locations range from Britain, through the Western Front, to Raj-era India, and it also spans two decades, with one section set in 1915, and another in 1930.

It's testament to Kamila Shamsie's ability as a writer that she never lets the task of drawing this together overwhelm her.

What she also manages to do is transport the reader to the times and locations she writes about. He
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I first discovered Kamila Shamsie's wonderful storytelling - as I'm sure did many others - through her magnificent book Burnt Shadows, nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction and quite inexplicably overlooked for that year's Booker. That book tackled an enormous canvas - the bombing of Nagasaki, the partition of India, the Afghan conflict, 9/11 - and held it all together through the character of Hiroko, with achingly beautiful writing and a quite wonderful story. I'm delighted to say that I t ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 28, 2014 rated it liked it
I've loved Shamsie's writing since I first encountered it in Kartography. Her writing is distinctly South Asian without being patronising or limiting itself to predictably "exotic" themes and characters. That was what I loved most about it, and while that's in evidence in this novel, I still found that there is a disappointing number of flaws. Kartography and Broken Verses had a "completeness" about them that is sorely lacking. I find I am left with too many questions and not enough sympathy for ...more
Aalekh Dhaliwal
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Grief never leaves, It merely sinks into you. A deep sorrow.”

“I bear no hatred for the English. It is our weakness that is responsible for the state we are in. How dishonoured a people we were to allow the men of a small island who burn at the touch of the sun to come here and be our masters.”

“What had Najeeb been doing in the world of the English who knew so well how to make you feel that you were never so honoured as when they were the ones to honour you?”

“If we can live nightmares we can liv
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Kamila Shamsie was born in 1973 in Karachi, where she grew up. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. While at the University of Massachusetts she wrote In The City By The Sea , published by Granta Books UK in 1998. This first novel was shortlisted for the John Llewelyn Rhys Award in the UK, and Shamsie rec ...more

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