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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Review: Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

From the hot plains and sprawl of Addis Ababa, to the jungle of New York, Cutting for Stone is a novel that sweeps through time and continents.

Shiva and Marion, twins birthed by a Nun and Nurse, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, late in September 1954 - a time coming to huge political revolution - turns the lives of everyone around them upside down merely by their arrival. Dr Thomas Stone, Missing Hospital's only surgeon, is so shocked and horrified by their birth that he flees. The raising of the twins is left to a willing Hema, the hospital gynaecologist, and Ghosh, another doctor at Missing.

Shiva and Marion, so close when they were boys that they were known as ShivaMarion, grow up bound together but the ripples of life start to drive them further and further apart, until the ultimate betrayal seems to threaten their relationship forever.

The book is neither sparing in the gory details of the more intense side of surgery and medicine (the author himself is the senior associate chair and professor for the Theory and Practice of medicine at no less than Stanford University) nor skimming over the details of the twins' lives; in fact, not just them, but the characters who surround and support them. When you get to the end of the novel you think how on earth did Verghese manage to cram so much into one novel without it ever feeling too much.

Vast in scope and intense in character, it is a hugely ambitious novel that moves, surprises and absorbs its reader. Would thoroughly recommend - but save it for a holiday when you have the time!

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