Ingenious Pain

Overview

A chronicle of life of an eighteenth-century man born without the ability to feel pain, this amazing book “offers a panoply of literary pleasures” (Washington Post Book World). Winner of Britain’s James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the 1999 IMPAC Award. “Astoundingly good” (New York Times Book Review).

A dazzling first novel set in 18th-century England and Russia, about the rise, fall and redemption of a man born without the ...

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Overview

A chronicle of life of an eighteenth-century man born without the ability to feel pain, this amazing book “offers a panoply of literary pleasures” (Washington Post Book World). Winner of Britain’s James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the 1999 IMPAC Award. “Astoundingly good” (New York Times Book Review).

A dazzling first novel set in 18th-century England and Russia, about the rise, fall and redemption of a man born without the capacity to feel pain. In a wonderfully evocative and exciting style, Andrew Miller takes us through Europe at a time of enlightenment, vividly portraying the life of a cold, insensate man as he discovers love, and eventually, compassion.

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
This smart reimagining of the groundwork just before France burst into flames is something to savor.
—The Washington Post
Journal of the American Medical Association
Ingenious Pain is a sweeping story tackling issues of human worth, empathy, alienation, redemption, and salvation. It asks the reader what he or she would most like to extract from life. The book reminds us that all persons are connected by pain and suggests that loneliness and human isolation are the greatest forms of suffering. While love may not be an antidote, it can at least teach us how to tolerate pain and survive.
Richard Dyer
An amazing book, full of wonders...Miller's genius is that there is also a suprise in nearly every sentence, and sometimes a miracle, too. -- Boston Globe
Shashi Tharoor
Makes the reader aware of being in the presence of a luminous intelligence, allied to literary skill of rare excellence. -- Washington Post Book Review
Robert Hellenga
Incredibly lively and imaginative.
—Robert Hellenga, The Chicago Tribune
Kirkus Reviews
Miller's debut, an unusual but uneven cautionary tale cloaked in a historical novel, features a cold-blooded English surgeon, literally a freak of nature, who works wonders in the mid-18th century until being spectacularly undone by his pride. Born of his mother's adultery in the midst of a moonlit midwinter skating party, James Dyer is marked by that icy violation: He utters not a sound and is completely numb to pain, whether his or anyone else's. The first condition lasts only a few years, so that he can speak by the time his family is obliterated by smallpox. He learns to feign pain from a huckster who uses the boy's lack of sensation to sell snake oil medicine to crowds thrilled by seeing James pierced with needles. Rescued from this life by a mysterious, wealthy landowner, James soon discovers that he has become part of his patron's personal collection of freaks, but endures it until he observes an amateurish, lethal operation, sickening to everyone but himself, to separate Siamese twins who were also in the menagerie. He escapes to the Royal Navy, where his aptitude for surgical technique soon has him operating coolly in the heat of battle, then leaves the sea to set up a private practice in Bath. His reputation as a surgeon becomes as huge as his notoriety for coldness and greed. He is shunned in spite of his skills when he drives his wine-addled partner to suicide. Unruffled, James joins a wild race between English physicians to minister to the Empress of Russia, but en route he meets a witch in the woods, whereupon he loses the race but gains the ability to feel—a transformation inducing madness and necessitating a long, excruciatingly painful recovery. Vivid andprecise in its isolated scenes, but suffering from a loose, ineffectual narrative. The result is a mere accumulation of arresting incidents rather than the taut, haunting story it could well have been.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156006002
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/1/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,455,370
  • Product dimensions: 0.78 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

ANDREW MILLER's first novel, Ingenious Pain, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the International IMPAC Award. He was short-listed for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award for his novel Oxygen. He lives in Brighton, England.

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